RI Explores Creating Safe Injection Sites For Opioid Users

May 7, 2018

At the urging of the Rhode Island Medical Society, Governor Gina M. Raimondo has agreed to explore the creation of safe injection sites in Rhode Island.

Raimondo’s policy advisor, Ryan Erikson, is scheduled to meet Tuesday with a working group from the governor’s opioid overdose-prevention task force to discuss launching a pilot site. The meeting at Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University is expected to be the first in a series of discussions on the matter.

“There’s huge consensus’’ on the need to explore “supervised consumption sites” or safe injection sites, Steven R. DeToy, director of government affairs for the medical society, which has some 5,000 members. “Much to my surprise, a lot of people know about them; a lot of people are talking about them.”

Safe injection sites provide safe places for opioid users to inject heroin and other  illegal drugs. The sites are staffed by health professionals trained to administer the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone, and offer treatment information.

Safe injection sites – used for decades in Canada and Europe – have been shown to curb overdose deaths and increase participation in drug treatment. Boston, New York, Seattle and San Francisco are among the cities considering safe injection sites.

But these facilities face major hurdles. President Trump’s administration has threatened to prosecute these facilities as violating federal law. And opponents say they encourage illegal drug use.