FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 4, 2024

CONTACTS:
Kate Lagreca, ACLU of Massachusetts, klagreca@klagrecaaclum-org
Tom Flanagan, Massachusetts Medical Society, tflanagan@mms.org

BOSTON – Three labor unions today announced their support for establishing overdose prevention centers in Massachusetts, joining a statewide coalition that includes major hospitals and providers, leading medical and public health advocacy groups, people with living and lived experience, families who have lost loved ones, and more.

The endorsing labor unions include 1199SEIU, SEIU Local 509, and Committee of Interns and Residents/SEIU Healthcare (CIR/SEIU) — representing more than 100,000 Massachusetts workers, including health care workers, human service workers and educators, and interns and resident physicians across the Commonwealth.

“1199SEIU represents frontline health care workers and frontline responders who see the impact of the overdose epidemic first-hand, every single day. Every overdose death is preventable, and overdose prevention centers are a commonsense, evidence-based tool we can use to save those who are struggling,” said Tim Foley, Executive Vice President of 1199SEIU. “By establishing overdose prevention centers, we can save thousands of lives in Massachusetts every year and connect them with health care providers and their community.”

“We see the impact of the overdose epidemic every day — thousands are dying every year in Massachusetts from preventable overdoses, and we need to utilize every tool we have to address the crisis,” said Dave Foley, President of SEIU Local 509. “Overdose prevention centers are proven, evidence-based facilities that can save lives and connect people to health care, treatment and recovery, and their community.”

“As a psychiatry resident working in the Outpatient Addictions Services at the Cambridge Health Alliance, many of my patients struggle with significant physical and mental sequelae of their illness, often disconnecting from loved ones, losing their homes, or ending up involved in the legal system. They often do not have safe places to go, and do not know what the drugs they buy actually contain. Overdose prevention centers would be a lifeline for my patients, providing a safe community space for support and connection to wraparound services while reducing the morbidity and mortality of substance use,” said Erica Lee, MD, Regional Vice President of CIR/SEIU. “Residents and fellow physicians like me are often on the frontline of providing substance use treatment. We recognize that addiction is a highly stigmatized chronic disease and that there are significant barriers to accessing care, especially outside of the legal system. We are proud to support overdose prevention centers and join our partners in the MA4OPC Coalition to advocate for these life-saving facilities.”

Massachusetts for Overdose Prevention Centers (MA4OPC) is a statewide coalition of more than 30 organizations committed to establishing overdose prevention centers in Massachusetts. The coalition backs a bill filed by Representatives Marjorie Decker, Dylan Fernandes, and Senator Julian Cyr (H.1981, S.1242) that would give municipalities looking for new harm reduction tools the authority to establish overdose prevention centers.

The new endorsements demonstrate continued momentum for these facilities in Massachusetts: The Healey administration recently recognized overdose prevention centers as an effective tool to save lives, releasing a Massachusetts Department of Public Health feasibility report that recommends legislative action to codify legal and professional liability protections so that OPCs may become a reality in the Commonwealth. The American Medical Association recently recommended overdose prevention centers as a meaningful way to help end the overdose epidemic. And, according to a recent Beacon Research poll released by MA4OPC, 70 percent of Massachusetts voters support passing state legislation to allow cities and towns to establish overdose prevention centers.

For more information about the MA4OPC Coalition, visit https://ma4opc.org