Perspectives on supervised injection facilities among service industry employees in New York City: A qualitative exploration

Brett Wolfson-Stofko, Luther Elliott, Alex S. Bennett, Ric Curtis, Marya Gwadz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Approximately 100 supervised injection facilities (SIFs) operate in 66 cities around the world to reduce overdose deaths, the spread of disease and public disorder, though none legally exist in the United States. Public bathrooms are among the most common public places for injection reported by people who inject drugs in New York City (NYC) and service industry employees (SIEs) inadvertently become first-responders when overdoses occur in business bathrooms. The goal of this study was to assess SIE acceptability of SIFs and the perceived effects that SIFs would have on them, their colleagues, their businesses and communities. Methods: Semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted with 15 SIEs recruited through convenience sampling throughout NYC. Participants were provided with peer-reviewed scientific evidence prior to discussing SIFs. Data were analysed using a hybrid deductive and inductive approach. Results: Most SIEs had encountered drug use (93%, n = 14/15) and syringes (73%, n = 11/15) in their business bathrooms and three had encountered unresponsive individuals. Nearly all workers (93%, n = 14/15) were supportive of SIFs and believed SIFs would reduce injection drug use in their business bathrooms. Participants also believed that ‘not in my backyard’ arguments from community boards may impede SIF operation. Conclusions: Service industry employees are critical stakeholders due to their exposure to occupational health hazards related to public injection. Those interviewed were amenable to SIF operation as a form of occupational harm reduction and their experiences provide an important dimension to the political debate surrounding SIFs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-73
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
StatePublished - Dec 2018


  • Harm reduction
  • Overdose
  • People who inject drugs
  • Public injection
  • Risk environment
  • Supervised injection facilities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health Policy


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