By Sue Ellen Woodcock
Just as Legislators were wrapping up work on the FY 18 budget last week, State Sen. Joe Boncore proposed and got passed an amendment that would direct the Department of Public Health to study whether or not supervised injection sites could work in Massachusetts.
Boncore noted that there were 2,069 opioid deaths last year in Massachusetts and the introduction of fentanyl caused the overdose rate to rise over the past four years.
“We’re losing a generation to this, my generation,” said Boncore. “This is to make sure there’s a safe alternative.”
Boncore said the amendment would direct DPH to partner with law enforcement and medical professionals to study the safety and health impacts of supervised injection facilities.
The Massachusetts Medical Society has lobbied state and federal lawmakers to create a pilot facility in Massachusetts.
A supervised injection facility is supervised by a licensed health professional. The user brings their own drug. The facility supplies sterile supplies but does not aid in the injection. The health professional can also answer questions on vein care, administer first aid and monitor the user for a possible overdose.
Around the world there are over 100 supervised injection sites in countries such as Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Australia and Canada.
Boncore said that Vancouver, Canada comes quickest to mind. In the past few years of having supervised injection sites, the city has seen a 35 percent reduction in the number of overdose deaths. The center also offers counselors who can help people get into rehab facilities. He added that funding for these centers in Vancouver come from drug seizures.