Last Friday, July 16, local politicians, harm reduction experts and health professionals joined in a virtual briefing in support of legislation being introduced to reduce opioid-related deaths. The legislation was proposed by State Representative Dylan A. Fernandes (D-Falmouth), State Representative Marjorie C. Decker (D-Cambridge) and State Senator Julian A. Cyr (D -Truro).
If approved, the legislation would create a pilot program to establish at least two safe consumption sites in Massachusetts, making it the second state in the country to do so. Earlier this month, Rhode Island became the first state to approve supervised injection sites.
Safe or supervised consumption sites are places that prevent overdose deaths by allowing individuals to safely use pre-obtained substances in a secure environment with trained medical supervision.
“Look, we have to do this,” said Representative Fernandes in his opening statements at the meeting. “We can all agree that no one with a substance abuse disorder should be treated like a criminal and that anyone with a substance abuse disorder who suffers that we as a that society and we as a state must do all we can to keep them alive and get them the treatment they so badly need.
According to the Massachusetts State House press release, more than 20,000 Massachusetts residents have died of opioid overdoses since 2000, and more than 2,000 lives are lost each year.
“Every death from opioids is preventable, and with 2,000 residents dying each year in the state from overdoses, it is morally wrong to continue to ban safe consumption sites from operating in the state,” a- he declared. “These sites will save the lives of our neighbors, friends and family, increase access to treatment, and lead to long-term recovery.”
“We cannot rule out any option that could save lives from the opioid epidemic,” said Senator Cyr, Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery. “As opioid use disorder continues to ravage too many lives in Bay State, the legislation we have introduced would pilot supervised consumption sites across the Commonwealth and provide public health workers with a new tool. crucial for saving lives. “
In addition to saving lives, safe consumption sites have been shown to reduce local health care costs, improve public safety, reduce transmission of HIV and hepatitis, and provide a route to drug treatment. , according to the press release.
Since opening a safe consumption site in Vancouver in 2003, local deaths from overdoses have declined by 35% and no one using the site has died as a result, the statement said.
“After just a year, the Vancouver Safe Consumption site referred 3,000 people for addiction counseling, admitting intravenous drug addicts to local emergency departments increased from 35% to 9% and ambulance calls in the community fell 67%, “the statement said. mentionned.
Representative Decker, who is the House Speaker of the Joint Committee on Public Health, said: âWith overdose deaths on the rise and Massachusetts ranking eighth in overdose mortality, we need to respond when we are. are with the urgency required to save lives. Safe consumption sites are an important way to save lives and fight the stigma associated with drug addiction. “
The bills are in the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Addiction and Recovery. Individuals will be allowed to testify at a public hearing on the bills in the coming months.