Boston, MA– Experts on opioid addiction treatment are urging state lawmakers to approve the creation of safe drug consumption sites in Massachusetts. So far, Governor Charlie Baker has dismissed the idea, as such sites are currently “illegal under federal law.”
Ok, sounds prohibitive, right? But there is actually some very recent precedent in the state for bucking federal law. Massachusetts' recent legalization of recreational marijuana goes against federal drug policy, which still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance—in the same class as heroin. However, in the case of supervised injection sites, Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling has stated that he would prosecute anyone who is found operating a drug consumption site.
This week, representatives from Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston Medical Center, and specific certified recovery coaches came together to discuss the potential creation of drug consumption sites in Massachusetts. The panel offered personal stories and later took questions from the audience, reports MassLive.
One medical professional in attendance, Doctor Laura Kehoe from the Bridge Clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital, claimed that harm reduction interventions should increase. Going hand in hand with these reduction interventions should be supervised consumption sites, according to Kehoe.
Another person in attendance, Paul Bowman, a certified recovery coach, spoke about his own losses. “I don’t know what we should do. I’m part of the Boston Users Union, are we going to start following them around with coffins?” This was in reference to the drug-addicted population in Massachusetts. Bowman continued: “A friend of mine died two weeks ago, my partner died eight years ago, I just can’t go to any more funerals.”
Senator Cindy Friedman shared her thoughts on the matter by stating that the first step to create supervised consumption sites would be to get the state legislature behind the panel’s proposal. Once the legislature is on board, the governor would be more likely to follow.
Sarah Mackin, director of a harm reduction service for drug users, stated that bringing a human spin to the story may win over political figures. Mackin elaborated: “If you’re a legislator who's picked up this topic and run with it…or those of us who are on the front lines as harm reductionists, treatment advocates, doctors, it’s really just about compassion and it’s about treating the whole person.”
This panel of addition treatment experts made it clear that they hope that the legislature will embrace the harm reduction strategy of drug consumption sites in Massachusetts.