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Officials Push for Safe Injection Sites in Boston at City Council

Officials Push for Safe Injection Sites in Boston at City Council
Author: Justin Mckibben

For some time now government officials in different states across America have been pushing for the implementation of safe injection sites in their neighborhoods to combat the perpetual rise of opioid addiction and overdose death. This time last year there were proposals in New York, California and Washington D.C. to open such facilities. With the rising rates of overdose and death more officials have asked for the opportunity to at least examine the potential impact of safe injection sites. Now, officials are pushing for safe injection sites in Boston.

This request didn’t come lightly, either. The Massachusetts Medical Society is actually imploring state officials to open a safe injection site within the City of Boston, with desperate hope of curbing the numbers of casualties.

Safe Injection Presented to City Council

The Boston city council members heard arguments both for and against safe injection sites in Boston, and the debate is on as to what to do with the information.

Advocates for safe injection sites in Boston believe such facilities save lives by making emergency medical treatment immediately available. Dr. Henry Dorkin with the Massachusetts Medical Society supports the idea, stating:

“In fact, if you don’t have them in a facility with Narcan readily available, they’ll die very quickly,”

Just to clarify, safe injection sites are secure locations with medical staff available where addicts can use heroin under medical supervision. It provides what could be considered neutral ground where the drug user will not have to worry about being charged with criminal possession, while also having a first line of defense against overdose. Safe injection sites do not provide drugs, they simply provide the space and with some clean needles are also available.

Probably one of the most popular examples used by advocates of safe injection sites has been the famous facility in Vancouver, Canada that helped save dozens of lives. City Councilors Anissa Essaibi-George and Frank Baker, who requested the hearing, point out that the safe injection sites in Vancouver reduced fatal opioid overdoses by 35%.

This kind of decrease in overdose fatalities would make a huge difference in Massachusetts. The state Department of Public Health says the state’s top cause of accidental death so far this year is opioid overdose. The department says an average of 6 people a day in Massachusetts die from opioid overdoses in 2017, making. A 35% decrease would make a tremendous improvement on the community.

Anti-Injection Sites Argument

Opponents of safe injection sites in Boston say that these facilities do nothing to address the true problem, which is addiction. Sue Sullivan of the Newmarket Business Association states:

“It’s an existence. We need to figure out how we’re going to save these people and it’s not safe injection sites,”

Looking at the Vancouver statistics was apparently not enough to convince the entire city council. One feature of safe injection sites is that they often have a team of treatment professionals who encourage addicts who visit the facility to get treatment. They provide information about safe medical detox and other levels of care to those who are interested in getting help. However, one city council member, Frank Baker, states:

“263,000 visits a year by 6,500 individuals. And it has only 404 referrals to onsite detox,”

Some officials believe that this measure of harm reduction isn’t enough to really solve the issue without getting more people into drug addiction treatment and off the streets.

Possible Benefits of Safe Injection Sites in Boston

The primary function of safe injection sites is to preserve life. The idea is that while it may not be a lasting solution, it is a way to save lives. Safe injection sites allow people struggling to have the opportunity to survive their addiction long enough to get treatment. Beyond slowing down drug related deaths, safe injection sites in Boston could offer a number of other positive outcomes.

In May of last year we also covered a report titled Alternatives to Public Injection in which experts with experience operating supervised injection facilities (SIFs) shared data that shows:

  1. People who use SIFs take better care of themselves
  2. SIFs reduce or eliminate addicts needle sharing
  3. Ultimately, participants reduce their drug use all together
  4. SIF participants gain access to other medical and social services
  5. Participants have resources to seek addiction treatment
  6. SIFs do not increase drug use in the surrounding area
  7. Crime and public disturbances decrease in the areas around these programs
  8. There has not been a SINGLE overdose death in any of these programs over many years of operation

Rates of people visiting safe injection sites attending treatment may not be as good as they could be. However, the fact that they have no experienced a single overdose death at these facilities is an incredible improvement.

Are we going to see safe injection sites in Boston? Are more American cities going to consider this option? Is having a safe injection site a good idea?

While getting the right kind of safe and effective addiction treatment can create lasting change, preventing the ongoing deaths from drugs is also a worthy cause. Holistic healing programs are designed to address every aspect of addiction. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

New York City Considering Safe Heroin Injection Sites

New York City Considering Safe Heroin Injection Sites

Author: Justin Mckibben

Back in February of this year the mayor of Ithaca, New York began pursuing a plan that would establish safe heroin injection sites in Ithaca in an attempt to battle the opiate epidemic raging across the country. This controversial harm reduction tactic is getting brought up a lot more lately. Other states are also looking into starting up similar contingencies for their citizens. Now, the Big Apple is set to spend quite a bit of money and resources investigating the merits of safe heroin injection sites. That’s right, New York City is now taking a closer look at how safe heroin injection sites operate, wondering if it might be a decent plan after all.

Talking about the tab…

One of the big things people seem to be focused on right now is the money. Some believe providing addicts with a clean, medically supervised facility to use is a waste. They believe that what it will be doing is promoting heroin addiction while enabling it, all at the city’s expense.

So far, the tab is already pretty steep. The City Council has announced it will be allocating $100,000 to study the practice. This money will go to the Health Department for a nine-month study to determine whether it makes sense to open safe heroin injection facilities.

Shouldn’t be much of a surprise that these desperate times have called for such desperate measures in New York City. The study comes as the Big Apple is still reeling from a record 937 fatal drug overdoses in 2015, a 66% increase since 2010. With 2016 coming closer to the end, it is a wonder if this will be another record year for the five boroughs. Overdose death rates are a huge factor in a lot of new movements for change.

What are safe heroin injection sites?

Safe heroin injection sites are facilities where intravenous drug users are permitted to use the drug intravenously under medical supervision. The sites offer a place where addicts can use without fear of arrest, in case of an overdose. The idea is to have staff trained and available to be able to save lives. At the same time, the hope is to reduce other risks associated with intravenous drug use.

Several safe heroin injection sites already exist in dozens of cities outside the United States. Should America be next? Some of the countries who use this practice include:

  • Canada
  • Europe
  • Australia

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito commented saying,

“It’s been done and been implemented in other areas [of the world], so we just want to look up what the viability would be in New York,”

This seems like a pretty fair response to the epidemic; trying to explore and educate officials on more options that could help. And beyond reducing overdose deaths, HIV and viral hepatitis transmission, safe heroin injection sites work to connect addicts with drug-treatment options. So it isn’t just about giving them a safe place to get high, but also making them feel safe and supported whenever they try to get help.

Conservatives in opposition

But of course there is a great deal of opposition. Michael Long, the state Conservative Party Chairman, claims the $100,000 could-

“- be put to better use than sending a message that it is OK to use intravenous drugs as long as you use a government-sanctioned place.”

However, the reality is that the money is being utilized in a way that serves it’s initial purpose. $5.6 million is already set aside in the city budget to combat AIDS. The $100,000 for the safe heroin injection site study is coming from that bulk of finances.

So while surely some would not be all for spending the tax-payers dollar on researching “legal drug dens” the truth is the money is going somewhere that could make a huge difference to the effect of what tax-payers originally intended it for.

The safe heroin injection study

According to a council memo, as far as the actual study itself, the researchers will review data that pertains to:

  • Health conditions and disease transmission related to heroin and other injected drugs
  • Evaluate existing supervised injection facilities
  • Assess legal issues
  • Input from select “city officials and community experts”

This isn’t the first radical idea on this side of the country. Seattle is also considering safe heroin injection sites. Earlier this year, Boston opened a facility where addicts can use under safe medical observation. However these people have to inject drugs elsewhere. This doesn’t seem like as good of a plan, because it’s basically asking for addicts to use and drive. Still, it is some kind of innovation in a different direction.

Preventing of death and the spread of disease is vital. As the death rate escalates in relation to heroin addiction and infections caused by intravenous drug use, prevention is increasingly important. These programs may be controversial, but the cost of losing lives is a lot higher than spending some money looking into alternatives.

Beyond harm reduction, there is real recovery. Real recovery begins with effective and innovative treatment. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call now. You are not alone.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Is It Wrong to Have Safe Injection Sites in America?

Is It Wrong to Have Safe Injection Sites in America?

Author: Justin Mckibben

Almost a month ago I wrote about how one county in New York was considering a new and radical approach to helping heroin addicts in their community avoid the spread of disease and dangerous infections through pushing to create safe injection sites in their area. The question I asked was is this a good idea- and a lot of people responded with very adamant and reasonable answers on both sides of the argument. Some said it was a respectable harm reduction initiative with results in other countries proving its worth, but others insisted it was an appalling and ludicrous concept that promoted drug abuse.

While opinions range from the moderately compassionate to the extremely opposition, it seems still more people are second-guessing the problem and now another state is considering safe injection sites for heroin addicts.

So again, let us talk about the issue and put the question out there- are safe injection sites irresponsible, enabling “shooting galleries” or are they a progressive, optimistic program engaged out of necessity?

Safe Injection Sites in Seattle-King County

The newly formed Seattle-King County in heroin task force in Washington is trying to find ways to expand treatment for heroin addicts in light of what health officials call a heroin epidemic, which has led to skyrocketing overdoses and deaths across every state in America. At this point this new entity is actively considering the creation of a safe heroin injection site as one way to address the growing heroin crisis in Washington State, and as I said this is not the first time this idea has been brought up here in the U.S.

Nor is it the first time safe injection sites have been brought up in North America. Insite is a supervised heroin injection site located in Vancouver B.C., the first of its kind this side of the continent. Thus far Insite has been is seen by some on the task force as a progressive step forward in the fight against heroin overdoses and the spread of diseases such as HIV of Hepatitis C. It aims to prevent fatal overdoses by providing supervised injection sites where drug users can legally use the illegal narcotic under the watch of medical professionals. The idea of safe injection sites is that if an addict starts to overdose, medical workers on location can administer naloxone to reverse the process.

The purpose of these sites is not to legalize heroin as many have argued when it comes to safe injection sites, because the drug is still illegal, but these sites are a safe-haven for ingestion which of course can get a little tricky with technicalities.

Another aspect that should be pointed out is that these users would also receive services and counseling, along with information and additional access to addiction treatment if they choose. So while some critics call it a “legal shooting gallery” those in favor of safe injection sites protest that these facilities are meant to save lives and plant the seed that could ultimately inspire a revolutionary change.

Again, I’ll reiterate the statistics of Canada’s first safe injection facility since it opened in Vancouver in 2003, where there are some pretty noticeable changes:

  • Every day around 800 users would visit the facility
  • 10-20 users overdosed every week
  • 0 deaths have occurred in the facility

The idea of a safe injection site in Seattle-King County even has some the most unlikely people listening, such as King County Sheriff John Urquhart. Urquhart was a 25-year soldier of the failed War on Drugs as a narcotics detective, who now openly admits there is no way to arrest your way out of the heroin epidemic, so even he is open to ideas like safe-injection sites. In an interview Urquhart stated,

“The status quo is not working anymore. This is not really a police issue anymore. More cleaner needles, reduction of Hepatitis, all of these things, I’m told have happened in Vancouver. I want to make sure we can replicate that here before I have support for this kind of a program.”

So the Sheriff is still trying to play it smart before doing anything too drastic, and other experts are saying that this kind of program is not meant to make it easier or more acceptable to abuse heroin, but it is meant to provide a resource that saves lives and may eventually lead those in desperate need of help to the right place to get it.

Still there is opposition, and reasonably so for so many have been impacted negatively by the increasing heroin epidemic and opiate outbreak that has been hitting the nation so hard over the past few years. So many people are suffering and so many communities are being damaged from what is happening out there, and so of course people a weary about a program that they think will only fan the flames of the issue.

I have said this before- I used to be strongly opposed to any form of harm reduction because to me the concept of recovery only meant abstinence and an absolutely radical change… but the truth I have come to realize is that was my experience, but it doesn’t mean that is the only acceptable outcome. On a personal level (which is just my opinion) I believe that in the right context whatever keeps people alive long enough to get help is worth having… I think- how can I advocate for expanded naloxone access and not for safe injection sites that promote drug addiction treatment and recovery oriented counseling that inspires change?

So I have to ask again- is it wrong to have safe injection sites in America?

As the number of people who those their lives to heroin addiction and infections like HIV and Hepatitis continues to rise, the nation may have to at least consider options that some may find controversial. Safe injection sites might not be the best answer, but it might make a huge difference to reduce the amount of addicts dying every day and give them another chance to recover. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-561-951-6135

Supervised Injection for Illegal Drugs Coming to New York?

Supervised Injection for Illegal Drugs Coming to New York?

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Justin Mckibben

This morning the news feeds have all been flooded with the recent announcement that the mayor of Ithaca, New York wants to get his city some radical support in the fight against the heroin epidemic in the form of one of the more debated strategies of harm reduction– the first supervised injection facility in the United States!

Supervised Injection

The concept of a supervised injection facility is to allow heroin users to inject illicit drugs under the care of a professional nursing staff without the threat of arrest of prosecution, so that in the event of overdose or other risks created by intravenous drug use there would be experienced and qualified medical personnel available to keep addicts as safe as possible and prevent death or further spread of disease.

There are already several other countries using supervised injection sites to combat the devastation caused by heroin and other opiate drugs, including:

  • Canada
  • Europe
  • Australia

All this has been in an effort to reduce the insanely despairing death rates. However, here in the United States the idea of creating a supervised injection facility has a lot of obstacles including legal and political objections. Well now Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick insists it is time to make the necessary changes if we have any hope of pushing through the issue with heroin and opiate addiction and the resulting deaths.

Supervised injection sites used to be considered outlandish and impractical ideas, and now they are being discussed more and more in response to huge increases in overdose deaths nationwide.

Canada’s first supervised injection facility opened in Vancouver in 2003, and since then there are some pretty noticeable changes:

  • Every day around 800 users would visit the facility
  • 10-20 users overdosed every week
  • 0 deaths have occurred in the facility
  • Overdose deaths drop 35% in the surrounding neighborhood

The Story for Mayor Svante Myrick  

According to Myrick his plan is to ask New York’s Health Department to declare the heroin epidemic a state health crisis, which would enable his city to proceed without involving the state legislature.

During his explanation to an Associated Press interview he explained his personal story in connection with addiction in a powerful statement:

“My father was a drug addict. He split from the family when I was 5,6 years old. I have watched for 20 years this system that just doesn’t work. We can’t wait anymore for the federal government. We have people shooting up in alleys. In bathroom stalls. And too many of them are dying.”

In New York State overdose deaths involving heroin and other opiates have drastically increased:

  • 186 in 2003
  • 914 in 2012
  • Ithaca alone had three fatal overdoses and 13 non-fatal overdoses in a three-week span in 2014

At one point heroin was noted to be killing more people in New York than homicide, so it is no wonder Mayor Myrick is pushing so hard for a resolution.

4 Pillars in the Ithaca Plan

Supervised injection facilities are just one part of Myrick’s 4 pillar drug policy proposal called “The Ithaca Plan,” with different elements of focus for a comprehensive movement against the mounting addiction, including:

  1. Prevention

For more robust mental health services and more avenues of communication with mental health professionals to get people the help that they need before they turn to drugs.

  1. Treatment

Suggests other programs based on drug maintenance rather than abstinence based programs.

  1. Law Enforcement

Following the model of Seattle drug enforcement program LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) to get addicts into treatment instead of jail.

  1. Harm Reduction

Establish a 24-hour crisis center where addicts can go if they are worried they might overdose or are facing withdrawal symptoms, along with supervised injection facilities.

The truth is some law enforcement officials and community leaders, along with former addicts, believe these kinds of supervised injection facilities are not the answer, and that they will only make the situation worse because it will encourage heroin users to continue using. Some say if there are not consequences for their actions what incentive is there to stop?

Ultimately there is plenty of room for argument on both sides of the fence. People who protest supervised injection facilities probably have some ground to stand on as far as being worried that some drug addicts might take it as an endorsement to keep using dangerous and deadly substances, but others will insist that addicts don’t need the endorsement, they will use anyway.

My personal opinion- if supervised injection sites help to keep people from overdosing and dying they might just be worth the risk. Plus most supervised injection facilities actively promote drug treatment to addicts and provide services to help people find the right kind of recovery program for them when they are finally ready to stop using. A lot of lives could be spared in the process, and with most cases in countries where these facilities exist they see an increase in treatment attendance.

The question now is, if one was to open in New York, would this tactic be implemented in other areas and how would people across America react?

While many still don’t think supervised injection facilities are an acceptable form of harm reduction, the truth is that lasting recovery is still possible through holistic drug and alcohol treatment, and with the right recovery plan freedom from all other ties that bind lead to an amazing life. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135


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