New York reporter Jennifer Peltz and lead Department of Justice reporter Mike Balsamo teamed up to break the news that the DOJ is reversing course and is now studying opening sites for people to use heroin and other narcotics with protections against fatal overdoses.

For three months, Peltz repeatedly asked the Justice Department whether it intended to oppose the two drug injection sites that opened in New York City late last year, just weeks after a federal judge in Pennsylvania had called for similar sites in Philadelphia to be shut down. And for three months the response was: no comment.

But this time the Justice Department said it is “evaluating” such facilities and talking to regulators about “appropriate guardrails.” With that she reached out to Balsamo, using his experience at DOJ to interpret the comments and expand the story.

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Injection stations are displayed at Safer Inside, a demonstration of a safe drug injection site in San Francisco, Aug, 29, 2018. The site is an example of a supervised, indoor location where intravenous drug users can use drugs in safer conditions and access treatment and recovery services.

AP Photo / Eric Risberg

What it meant is a drastic change from the department’s stance in the Trump administration when DOJ took a hard line against such facilities, blasting then-New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for his plan to open several sites. One year after winning a major court battle against opening such sites, the department was signaling it might be open to them.

The story
was picked up or credited to AP by news outlets across the country, from the New York Post to the Los Angeles Times, and it lit up Google search metrics for days.