tv Ali Velshi on Target Al Jazeera February 22, 2016 9:00pm-9:31pm EST
heroin epidemic. it came during a meeting with the nation's governors at the white house, where the topics were terrorism,ing international politics and the zika virus, if the president should consider a national approach to cracking down on doctors who over-prescribe opioid medications like oxycontin. , pain pills and then look for a cheaper more powerful high so the governors question was right on the money. now president said it would be better if governors first reach agreement on prescription limits before the issue reached congress but his answer also touched on a shift that's taking on america's approach to deal with drugs and diction. addiction. here is what the president said. >> if we go to the doctors and
say don't overprescribe, without mechanisms to deal with the pain that they circulat have or the s they have then we're not going to solve the problem because the pain is real, the mental illness is there, the addiction is already there. in some case these are underserved communities when it comes to doctors nurses and practitioners. >> the president was talking about the addiction as, harm reduction. harm reduction includes needle is exchange programs where addicts can get cleaning syringes, used all over the world. giving injection drug user clean needles helps the spread of hiv and hepatitis c but the programs
remain controversial in this country and absolutely illegal in a few dozen states. we went to one of those states, florida, where a perfect storm of heroin addiction, hiv infection and lack of clean syringes have left needle exchange advocates fighting for a solution to a modern day epidemic. >> so as you can see i pulled out a couple of syringes. usually i start them out with ten and then i would put them in the package. >> about once a week ordained pastor george gibson can be found at this miami storage irnt prepping for his usual deliveries. >> this is illegal to distribute syringes but for the last couple of years gibson has done that. he has made handing out syringes
to injection drug users his life's work. gibson runs the state's only underground needle exchange policeman. he meets jason, he asked his real name not be used. people like jason makes up gibson's clientele these days, white, young and desperate to avoid the health risks that come from reusing or even sharing the same needles. >> after a while using the same needles over and over again becomes very problematic they become dull the risk of disease is also present whenever you're not using clean needles. >> this is a syringe that's completely unprotected at this point with the needle sticking out. >> head downtown and it doesn't take long to find a used syringe lying on the street.
miami-decade count-dade county a health emergency. home to near 10,000 injection users an estimated 1 in 5 has hiv, one out of three has hepatitis c. >> i've seen people who were so desperate they see a syringe and use it. >> he's been fighting to get a needle exchange set up in miami-dade county. >> we have action of intervention to prevent disease. that is a very dangerous situation in a city that's high in hiv, one out of five has hiv, if they are injecting and exchanging syringes they are just going to spread it to each other. >> injection drug users by 30% or more. but tukes says it's not just
hiv. even basic infections can result in devastating illness. >> after somebody injects with a dirty syringe it's very easy to have a skin or sort of tissue injection in the arm where the person last injected. thens can progress, entering the bone, the bloodstream and the heart. those are the patients that die. >> a study found these infections in one year alone led to 17 deaths. >> we're basically withholding a treatment known to prevent disease from a group of vulnerable people in that is not right. it is not anywhere, not right in the united states, not right in miami. >> and it's not cheap either. lifetime health care for hiv can average $600,000 a patient, $300,000 for hepatitis c. >> they get picked up by an
ambulance, and taken to the hospital. they are not paying with insurance, they are on the taxpayer's dime. >> state senator oscar brayan has established a program, he has seen firsthand the ravages of the district he represents. it is one of the poorest most african american in the straight. >> just because you have a drug addiction or a -- our happen to have hep c or hiv, that doesn't stop people from having children having families. and what you'll see is it is hard for these children to do well in school. how can a kid take a test where they're coming from a home where a parent is focused only on trying to get the next high? >> the program would cost about $150,000, privately paid for and led by the university of miami. but branan has faced the same
moral objection he time and time again whether the bill was recently discussed in a senate committee meeting. >> i still cannot bring myself to have the state put their stamp of approval on the use of illegal drugs. >> this concern about enabling drug addicts is the main reason they remain illegal in 25 states. mostly in the south and the midwest. >> i don't want the state of florida to give them inencouragement to continue their it's habits. >> tukes testified it's ultimately naive. >> they are going to use the drug whether they have to pick it up off the ground or whether it's a clean syringe. the best we can do is make it so they don't have to live with a lifelong chronic disease like hiv or hepatitis.
>> i would be reusing the same needles. if i were desperate enough i may resort to using needles from someone else. >> and barnan says some needle exchange programs can help addicts get clean. >> there are some that say that 40% of the people that have come to these programs across the country have at some point gone to rehab. >> branan's bill has already failed opass twice and face east tough fight in a republican dominated state house but he is determined to see it through. >> i don't know if these bills affect people at home but this is one of those that i know will help people. ♪ ♪ >> until that day, though, george gibson continues to risk arrest with his work. a life saved, he says, is worth more than the law.
>> i believe in social justice. i believe in civil disobedience. even if it's illegal with this i believe it's saving a person's life. a person's life is priceless. we just can't keep waiting on legislators and waiting for approval. somebody has to do something and i feel that somebody needs to be me. >> that bill setting up a needle exchange program in miami is set for next week. wait until the next segment, some people say the way to help people looked on heroin is to give them a safe place to shoot up.
life in communities around this country and in an effort to combat the worst effects of addiction, officials are taken to the harm reduction, law enforcement crack down to public health solutions, needle exchange programs which we just saw but using needle exchange programs to address drug addiction is nothing compared to what some officials are proposing here in new york. they actually want to give addicts a safe place to use drugs. is it a well-meaning idea that just goes too far? arwhere are you taking me to? >> we're going over here, right quick and then we're going to go down to the bottom. >> okay. >> walk a little with michael
bailey. >> we'll come to we'll use that. >> i mean is it hard city to find places to use? >> not really. but you know what? a lot of times we want it secluded, we don't really want to be around society. >> all around the city from parks like this to abandoned buildings and underpasses people are shooting up heroin. >> what's the danger of being out here alone. >> definitely oding if you are getting a shot don't do the taste test first, you the are rushing in there rushing and doing. >> that's where you live? >> where i live, yeah. >> wow. >> and that danger has led droves of drug users to search for a safer place to inject. it's an unspoken secret that they've effectively taken over the bathrooms of community organizations like this one in brooklyn. >> so i'm going to show you or
bathroom. >> evelyn minimall milan is a cy advocate. >> we don't condone drug use but people are going to be use and we want them to be safe and more than anything to be healthy. our job is to keep them alive. >> the bathrooms have become so popular with users that milan set up some rules. there's a signup sheet, each person only gets ten minutes and there is a two way communicates device. >> hello are you okay. >> eddie has injectheroin for most of his adult life. >> we used to go to shooting galleries, stay off the street. we paid a dollar for the place, throw the needle back in the can and walk out.
i think that's how i caught hep c by the grace of god i didn't get infected with hiv-aids but my brother did, my baby brother did. >> publiat the washington heighs corner project in upper manhattan overdoses from addicts using its bathrooms have also become all too common. >> we reversed probably over 60 overdoses since we opened. >> tyco frost is executive director of the corner project a nonprofit that rung a syringe exchange program. >> we know that individuals in new york do not have a stable, sterile space to inject drugs. we have lost so many people to overdose. so many people, young people. wonderful people. artists, creative, smart,
wonderful people that didn't need to die. >> when those addicts od staff members are trained ogive maloxone, known by its brand name, narcan. it reverses the worst effects of heroin but frost says it is just a band-aid. >> it is not a solution to what's going on. >> in 2014, new york saw mosh mormoredeaths from heroin overdn from homicide. and among drug users those who inject in public places are twice as likely to od. driven by a fear of arrest or being discovered, they often rush their injections and increase odds for an overdose. that is why frost is leading a coalition of lobbying groups,
leading to a radical idea, a place where addicts can inject safely under supervising professional. >> we need to fight for them. >> this is a kind of thing a safe injection facility is meant to address, you have seen these in hundreds of places in manhattan. it is a public area, traffic everywhere where little secluded places where people come to use their drugs. with a facility they would have somewhere to go that's safe in the event they overdosed. >> clean needles and secure places, to helping an addict secure treatment. about 100 facilities already exist worldwide. the one facility known as insight is in vancouver.
>> twol million injection off the streets of our city, out of bathrooms, and those 2 million injections have taken people off the street and given people a chance to live for another day. >> mark thompson fought a fierce battle in 2003. he says a decade of success has rallied people around the facility. studies show that night lowers injection errors and saves money in the long run. >> for every dollar you are spending at insight, you are saving $4 on ambulances and everything else. >> it's not helping people benefit themselves in a way of getting like clean and starting
a new life. >> some charge the facility would just enable drug users. 26-year-old rony hans is a recovering heroin addict in camelot counseling. a staten island treatment center. >> they're not helping themselves. they are just killing themselves. >> and others like logan lewis a director at camelot, say injection facilities fail to get to the root of drug abuse. >> say taking a person with a fever of 104, sticking them in the bathtub of ice, will it get rid of the symptom? yes. will it cure the problem? of course not. you haven't really addressed the underlying issue. >> lewis a form he addict himself even questions whether a users would use such a facility. >> when you get the drug that
you need you want to get that into your system as quickly as possible. you don't have time to go look for a site. >> but thoamplez say thompson ss help curb drug abuse. >> degladeglamourize drug abuse. 30% more likely than someone on the street to attend detox or treatment. >> one new york city councilmember has already come out in support of a supervised injection facility but the department of health declined to say if it would consider the idea. still, highway mike says the day drug users finally have a safe place to inject can't come soon enough. >> right now we are in highbridge park off 177th street and as a user we'll go down here and have all our equipment and where we have to
use. but if we're by ourselves and something happened that person wouldn't be found until the next person to happen to use happened to be going that way or maybe the smell or the stench. we're losing people. behind the disease of addiction. >> coming up: a drug that could help save an addict's life but it doesn't come without controversy.
epidemic that's killing tens of thousands of americans each year. in talking about safer places to use heroin i'm talking about the drug brand named narcan. it doesn't come without controversy. jacob ward reports from san francisco. >> who's this? >> that's my friend ariel. she and i were friends and worked together. >> how long ago did she pass? >> she died in 2005. and yeah. that's really hard. >> ee liz >> eliza wheeler runs the drug program in oakland. the work is very hard and very personal. >> we sat outside for a long time. she said i don't know what i'm doing, i'll get my stuff together. you know just a blip you know. and she died that night. >> wheeler may not be able to
get users into treatment but she can make sure they have access to a miracle drug maloxo thrvetione or narcan. a overdose causes the body to forget to breathe. narcan literally knocks opiates off the brain sobering the person up immediately. during 2013, the last year for which complete information is available about 16,000 people died of an overdose of prescription opioids like oxycodone, and about 8,000 died of heroin. in that year doorg according tha swea wheeler's group helped conduct, those 8,000 people would be dead as well. an anecdotal experiment, the experience of administering it can inspire people to seek treatment.
>> in clinics where maloxone is prescribed we've seen really dramatic reductions in overdose death, not just overdose death but reduction in 80 overdose events. maybe it is acting as a behavior change. >> the safest drug in the world, if a paramedic comes across someone who is unconscious, even giving them sugar water might kill them but nar con i narcan o administer to then. you and me. >> he was really heavy, like okay this is bad so i luckily had narcan and i gave him the narcan, and he like wasn't work at first i gave him two doses and then he came back and it was -- i don't know it was really terrifying.
but he lived. >> we basically take the cap off, take the cap off here here. >> paramedics have traditionally administered narcan and police in 29 states now carry it as well. but according to wheeler's study drug users saved each other over 80% of the time. that's why wheeler says they must have narcan too. >> for me the priority has to get it into the hands of people who use drugs. they are the most likely people the witness an overdose. >> do you know how to use it? should i show you? >> yes show me. >> we equip people who are using drugs with life savoring tools to save themselves, to take care of each other as a community. that's really hard thing for mainstream america to wrap their minds around. >> patrick who uses heroin would be dead if he had to wait for an officer or an emt he says. >> while i was in minneapolis i
acquired some heroin that was basically a lot stronger than when i was in san francisco. i basically oded. i didn't have time to do anything, and my girlfriend luckily had the training in how to use narcan, had access to it, saw i was unconscious not breathing, and inserted narcan, you can do it through the nose which is how she did it and revived me in five to ten minutes. >> narcan doesn't necessarily mean that a drug yer user is going to act more responsibly. but nar scan instantaneous narct can help addicts from dying. jacob ward, al jazeera, san francisco. >> and that's our show for today.