OPINION|Mike Hardman: Safe Injection Sites Needed for Drug Users
A Massachusetts bill would stop some of the deaths from overdoses and we need to adopt it now.
As we sit idle, more people are dying each day in this epidemic. It’s time for us to take a more radical approach by allowing safe injections sites for addicts to use illegal drugs while supervised by medical personnel.
Individuals using the centers will be provided with clean needles, which will be disposed of properly, rather left in public parks and in other public spaces.
The Massachusetts Medical Society is supporting the creation of these sites to decrease the number of overdose deaths. Throughout the world, these places have been created and have some positive results. Vancouver opted this and saw a 35-percent for those who used safe injection sites and a 30-percent in individuals who have detoxification treatment, according to the Medical Society in a MassLive report.
The Massachusetts Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use, and Recovery recently held a hearing on allowing these facilities being opened. Governor Charlie Baker says he is “skeptical” about the efforts of the program to start addicts on the road to recovery, while secretary of health MaryLou Sudders says she wants to get more information.
There isn’t time for that.
"As citizens, we understand that idea of a space in which an individual can inject drugs already in their possession may be met with initial reticence by some; but as physicians, we cannot ignore the evidence-based arguments that point to SIFs as a roadblock to death and a conduit to treatment," said Massachusetts Medical Society president Henry Dorkin in a September statement.
Baker supports a bill that would allow for addicts to be held for 72 hours for treatment, which is meeting resistance from the American Civil Liberties Union. That doesn’t go far enough. What happens after the 72 hours? If that's adopted, we would still be treating this problem as a criminal one.
This is a public health crisis and we need to start to take radical steps to prevent it from continuing by stopping overdoses anyway we can.
(Mike Hardman is the digital media editor for WBSM. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.)