State Commission Calls for Supervised Injection Sites for Harm Reduction in Drug Users
Boston, MA– A state commission has recommended that the Massachusetts legislature approve the creation of one or more supervised injection sites on a trial basis in an attempt to reduce the number of overdoses related to opioid abuse.
The Boston Globe reported that the state’s Harm Reduction Commission, led by Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders, will share their report with the state legislature at the end of this week. The report offers no suggestions for locations of the facilities, but did state that the sites would require local approval and would be subject to “rigorous evaluation and data gathering” to determine their effectiveness.
Supervised injection sites, also known as supervised consumption sites or overdose prevention centers, are facilities where users can bring drugs obtained elsewhere and dose themselves under the watch of medical personnel. Trained staff provide clean needles, answer questions, and observe users for signs of overdose, providing first aid as needed. Evidence suggests that these facilities effectively reduce overdose death rates while also limiting the spread of infectious diseases. While there are 120 such centers in countries around the world, no supervised injection sites exist in the U.S.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has said in the past that he is opposed to the creation of supervised injection sites. A similar proposal was rejected last year after Baker and U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling voiced their opposition. The Harm Reduction Commission was created at that time to study the issue in greater depth. Lelling argued that these centers are in violation of federal law, but the commission believes there may be different interpretations about whether the Controlled Substances Act would apply to supervised injection sites.
Massachusetts is in the grip of an opioid crisis, with over 2,000 opioid-related overdose deaths in 2016, when the state’s rate of opioid deaths was more than double the national rate. Since then, there has been some progress in Massachusetts, with a decrease of 2% in opioid-related overdose deaths in 2017 and a decrease of 4% in 2018. The crisis is by no means over, however.
In 2017, President Trump declared the opioid epidemic to be a national Public Health Emergency. With over 47,000 opioid-related overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2017, an enormous number of Americans have been directly affected by the drug crisis, or know someone else who has lost a loved one. Safe injection sites have been proposed in several states in the hopes of saving lives.