BOSTON (CBS) – The Boston City Council will hold a public meeting next week on a controversial tactic to fight the opioid crisis: supervised injection sites.
They are clinics where drug users can shoot up under the supervision of medical professionals. The sites provide clean needles and doctors and nurses can administer naloxone to combat overdoses. They encourage drug users to enter treatment, as well.
Last month, the Massachusetts Medical Society voted unanimously to set up a pilot program allowing up to two such clinics in the state. The proposal is now being considered by lawmakers at the State House.
The Massachusetts Medical Society also published a report citing data from Vancouver, Canada, which opened an injection site called Insite in 2003. The report states that Vancouver has seen a 35 percent decrease in opioid deaths since opening the site.
Guy Felicella started using Insite in 2003. He says the ability to shoot up with medical professionals present helped him develop a relationship with people who wanted to get him clean.
He went to Insite for 10 years, even overdosed six times, before seeking out the detox center on location called Onsite. He is now clean, has a job, a wife, and two kids.
“And if it didn’t exist than I wouldn’t have that beautiful family and all those things that I have today in my life,” Felicella said.
Not everyone in the Commonwealth approves of the idea. Boston City Councilor at-large Annissa Essaibi George worries that an injection site could overly burden already taxed addiction services in Boston. She says the city has become a hub of resources for addicts from surrounding communities.
“We’re finding in our local shelters here […] 50 percent of those that are presenting for shelter are from outside of the city of Boston,” she said.
Governor Charlie Baker is also hesitant.
“I really want to see literature that demonstrates, one way or another, about whether this helps people get better,” Baker said.
Felicella says it is this simple.
“You can’t save a dead addict,” he said.