Overdose prevention centers, sometimes called safe consumption sites, are evidence-based, legally sanctioned harm reduction facilities where people who use drugs can safely consume pre-obtained drugs under supervision of trained health care workers.
Already successful in 200 locations around the world, overdose prevention centers are proven to save lives because they bring people out of the shadows to use drugs more safely, access substance use disorder treatment information and referrals, and receive immediate medical intervention. In addition to preventing deadly overdoses, these facilities are proven to reduce the incidence of HIV and hepatitis C, among other diseases, benefiting everyone.
Despite the state’s efforts, six people die of drug overdose in Massachusetts every day. Every drug overdose is preventable.
Overdose prevention centers are proven to save lives, reduce harms related to drug use, and connect people to essential treatment and recovery support services. They should be a vital part of Massachusetts’ response to and fight against the overdose crisis.
Public health advocates in Rhode Island announced they will open the country’s first state-regulated overdose prevention center in early 2024. Massachusetts should be next.
Everyone deserves the opportunity to live a healthy life. Overdose prevention centers provide the following to help achieve this goal:
Overdose prevention centers make our communities safer and healthier in three key ways:
First, overdose prevention centers save lives. At the two overdose prevention centers open in New York City, over 800 overdoses have been reversed and ZERO overdose deaths have occurred. In fact, there have been zero deaths in the approximately 200 overdose prevention centers across 14 countries worldwide. Overdose prevention centers also give people the opportunity to connect with trusted health care providers, start treatment, and take the first step on the road to recovery.
Overdose prevention centers also improve public safety by reducing drug use in public spaces and decreasing public disturbances.
And finally, overdose prevention centers can help municipalities save money. A comprehensive study found that an overdose prevention center in Boston would realize cost savings of $4 million by reducing reliance on costly ambulance rides, Emergency Department visits, and hospitalizations.
Overdose prevention centers improve public safety. They reduce drug use in public spaces, cut down on discarded drug paraphernalia such as used hypodermic needles, and decrease public disturbances. These centers do not increase crime in the surrounding neighborhoods. Rather, case studies out of Australia and Canada found that such centers improved public safety by reducing public drug use in unsafe locations.
This bill is not a mandate. It would enable local control and allow communities to decide what’s best for them.
The bill authorizes a 10-year pilot program of overdose prevention centers that require approval by local boards of health. Several communities across the state are interested in opening overdose prevention sites, but state action is needed to enable a local option.