BOSTON (CBS) – Boston advocates for controversial “safe injection sites” made a public push Monday. Along with information, they gave people an up close look at how they say these sites can prevent overdoses and save lives.
We’re painfully aware of heroin users overdosing in back alleys, under bridges and even in public buildings, with the death toll a national crisis. Today, medical students and other advocates for what are called safe injection facilities took their campaign to the Harvard Medical School quad, talking to people about why they think Massachusetts should open the controversial sites.
“People who would otherwise be injecting and overdosing alone on the street could come in and receive medical care, be supervised so they’re using substances safely, and are connected to long term treatment,” says Kathleen Koenigs, a first year medical student and a member of the Student Coalition on Addiction.
They even set up an area that simulates what an injection site would look like. A simple desk with sterile syringes and Narcan in case of an overdose. Medical staff would be on hand for safety.
It’s modeled after this injection facility in Vancouver that has operated for 15 years. “We don’t want to lose any more of our family members, our neighbors,” says Aubri Esters of Safe Injection Facilities Now.
The facilities would look at addiction as a medical problem and offer treatment. “It’s an avenue for treatment. It’s an avenue for increased health and it’s an avenue to keep people alive,” she says.
While there are several bills at the State House that would allow for these facilities, it’s a tough sell. Gov. Baker isn’t convinced. “I really want to see literature that demonstrates, one way or the other, whether this helps people get better,” he says.
Even if Beacon Hill approved, the sites would still be illegal at the federal level. Right now there are about 100 supervised injection sites around the world. None in the United States. In addition to Boston, people in Philadelphia, Seattle and San Francisco are considering whether the facilities would be effective in their communities.