Massachusetts Doctors Vote In Favor Of Safe Injection Facilities

By Britni de la Cretaz 06/21/17

Massachusetts is one of six states that has considered allowing safe injection facilities. 

Insite in Vancouver
Inside a safe injection facility in Vancouver Photo via YouTube

Massachusetts doctors are calling for the state to implement safe injection facilities (SIFs) in an effort to combat the opioid crisis and rising number of overdose deaths. Members of the Massachusetts Medical Society voted 193-21 in favor of SIFs.

"You have to stay alive to get better," Dr. Barbara Herbert, an addiction specialist, told NBC Boston. "The idea that someone would show up and inject in front of me is not an appealing idea… But the idea that they would go two blocks away and die is so much worse."

When asked about the issue, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said, "I need to take a look at that one. I'm not familiar with it.” However, the issue has been introduced in the state before and there’s already proposed legislation that would allow for SIFs in Massachusetts. The bill, sponsored by William Brownsberger, is an amendment to an already existing law to provide “a space for people who use drugs to consume pre–obtained drugs under the supervision of healthcare professionals,” which would allow for trained professionals to provide other related services like needle exchange, overdose prevention, and referrals to treatment.

“People are dying across the state,” Brownsberger told DigBoston. “We need to be open to whatever might be helpful to protect people from the worst consequences of their addictions.”

Last year, Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program (BHCHP) opened the Supportive Place for Observation and Treatment (SPOT), where drug users can go while under the influence to receive medical supervision. They can also be referred to treatment, and Dr. Jessie Gaeta, chief medical officer of BHCHP, told The Washington Post that 10% of people who have used SPOT have gone straight into treatment.

Earlier this year, Seattle become the first U.S. city to approve SIFs and hopes to open two sites within a year. “These sites save lives and that is our goal in Seattle/King County,” Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said in a statement obtained by The Washington Post.

Meanwhile, a Washington state senator introduced a bill that would ban the sites. Nine countries currently have SIFs, where they’ve been shown to reduce fatal overdoses and increase the number of people entering treatment. However, the sites are not currently legal under United States federal law, where a provision of the Controlled Substances Act makes it illegal to operate a facility where drugs are used.

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Britni de la Cretaz is a freelance writer, baseball enthusiast, and recovered alcoholic living in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @britnidlc.