Safe Consumption Sites Directly Meet the Needs of the BMC Community
Opioid-related overdose deaths rose in Massachusetts last year by 5% to a total of 2,104—marking the first increase in the state in three years and its highest peak, topping 2016's peak of 2,102. This increase from 2019 to 2020 occurred amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and like the pandemic, has disproportionately affected Black Americans, with opioid overdose deaths among Black men in Massachusetts rising 69%.
Addiction specialists from Boston Medical Center's Grayken Center for Addiction joined many others from across the state last week to testify before the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Mental Health Substance Use and Recovery in support of legislation to create supervised consumption sites. Bills H.2088 and S.1272, "An Act relative to preventing overdose deaths and increasing access to treatment," if passed, would open two or more supervised consumption sites in the state as part of a 10-year pilot program.
Supervised consumption sites—also called safe consumption sites, safe injection sites, safe injection facilities, or overdose protection centers—are safe and clean facilities where people with substance use disorder (SUD) can use drugs they acquired offsite. They would be supervised by trained staff, who would be available to give sterilization help or medical assistance as needed to prevent overdose and death.
Miriam Komaromy, MD, the medical director of the Grayken Center gave a brief introduction to her colleagues' testimonies and made it clear that they support opening safe consumption sites as soon as possible. Alex Walley, MD, MSc, also spoke in favor, and Jessica Taylor, MD, spoke to how these sites could be a public health tool to reduce HIV transmission.
Miriam Harris, MD, MSc, combatted common misconceptions about safe consumption sites and spoke to how they respond directly to the needs of BMC's community and can be an opportunity to engage people with SUD in harm-reduction services and treatment.
Below is an excerpt from her testimony.
To watch Miriam Harris’s speech in full, as well as the comments from Komaromy, Walley, and Taylor, you can watch the full video of the hearing on the Joint Committee's website.