Two Boston city councilors want to explore the impact of establishing safe injection sites on the city and state’s devastating opioid epidemic.
The idea of safe injection sites — where addicts can inject drugs while being supervised by medical experts trained to treat overdoses and social workers who can help the addicts find a path to recover — is not completely new.
The concept is already established in places like Vancouver and Australia, which prompted the Massachusetts Medical Society to call for a task force to look into a safe injection site pilot program back in May.
Jumping off of that effort, Councilors Annissa Essaibi-George and Frank Baker filed a request on Monday for a hearing to examine the effects of such a site in Boston.
“Boston needs to be front and center in the conversation about safe injection sites,” Essaibi-George said in a statement. The city councilor at large is also the chair of the committee on Homelessness, Mental Health and Recovery.
“Research shows that there are definitely some positive outcomes for facilities like this, especially in reducing overdose deaths. That being said, the centralization of services in Boston’s neighborhoods has had serious impacts on our city and we need to hear from all sides,” she said.
There are no safe injection sites yet in the United States, according to the councilors, though multiple cities are considering opening some as part of a “harm reduction strategy.”
A safe injection site in Vancouver saw a 38 percent reduction in overdose deaths, according to a study cited by the Massachusetts Medical Society.
Massachusetts has seen a 350 percent increase in overdose deaths since 2000, according to the hearing order which cites the state Department of Public Health.
“As a city, we should be examining all measures to help those in our community struggling with opioid addiction,” said Baker, the co-sponsor of the hearing order, in a statement. “Holding this hearing will give us the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about safe injection sites and any potential impact to our city.”
Essaibi-George has previously said that she wants to explore more safe disposal practices for used needles and an expansion of the Mobile Sharps Team, as well. That team has collected about 20,000 needles since March 2015, according to the councilor.