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OnPoint NYC expands health hub to treat addiction

OnPoint NYC celebrates 500 lives saved from overdose
OnPoint NYC celebrates 500 lives saved from overdose 02:43

NEW YORK - This week, the nonprofit OnPoint NYC, which operates the two overdose prevention sites in East Harlem and Washington Heights, announced the 500th life saved from an overdose inside its facilities.

CBS2's Jessi Mitchell got a first look at the new medical unit at the East Harlem site, which provides clients with comprehensive care. Shiny new clinic rooms invite OnPoint participants to come in for services, beyond their primary purpose to use illicit products under supervision in the injection site next door.

"We know that people change sometimes through environments, through access, through believing they're cared for in different ways," said OnPoint NYC Executive Director Sam Rivera.

A staff doctor joined volunteers from Montefiore to solidify the medical team. A pharmacy also opens on site in the coming days, continuing to offer vaccines and treating clients with medicine to fight addiction.

OnPoint's controversial harm-reduction approach does not push participants to quit using drugs.

"If we're here and we're constant and we're reminding people that there is another way to go, then we're doing our job," said Susan Spratt, clinic manager.

OnPoint expanded its hours to open at 6 a.m. in August, in response to an increase in overdoses overnight at Marcus Garvey Park, after the team was alerted by local police precincts.

Near the Washington Heights site, where subway syringe clean-ups have the support of the city, neighbors like Led Black feel more needs to be done.

"I do appreciate that the tunnel looks better," Black said. "But here, now that I live here in this area, this is the active zone. This is where you need help, and you need active enforcement, like, ASAP."

On his block, along 179th Street near Fort Washington, Black showed a community camp where he said people gather to use drugs, preventing his wife and daughters from feeling safe walking to the bus and train station.

Black also shared a video of a naked man in distress outside his window at night, with police present, but not engaging.

"My question is harm reduction for who?" asked Black. "Is it only about drug addicts not dying? But what about our community dying?"

In the first nine months of offering supervised injections, more than 1,700 people have come through OnPoint's doors for services. Rivera insists the approach works, but change does not happen overnight. He admits it is difficult to keep track of how many people are quitting their habits.

"We know that when they come in and say, 'man, I'm using so much less, I can see myself,' we see people show up differently," said Rivera.

If you see evidence of drug use in your neighborhood, OnPoint NYC encourages you to call its hotline for a clean-up crew, (718) 415-3708. To learn more about its services, click here.

NYPD has not responded to our request for comment on its partnership with OnPoint NYC, and their interaction with the man in distress.

Have a story idea or tip in Harlem? Email Jessi by CLICKING HERE.

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