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May 1, 2017

Mass. Medical Society wants safe injection sites

In an effort to curb serious illness and disease associated with the use of needle drugs, physicians from the Massachusetts Medical Society will lobby state and federal policymakers to pilot a state-run safe injection site program in Massachusetts.

At its annual meeting Saturday, the MMS membership adopted a policy that calls for "a pilot supervised injection facility program in the state, to be under the direction and oversight of the state" as well as wider use of naloxone and more treatment for substance use disorder. The policy calls for the organization to lobby for a federal exemption and state legislation to allow such a facility.

The American Journal for Public Health said safe injection facilities are "a place supervised by licensed health personnel where (people) inject drugs they obtain elsewhere. Facility staff do not directly assist in injection, but provide sterile injection supplies, answer questions on vein care and safer injection methods, administer first aid, and monitor for overdose." The MMS said such sites "have been associated with declines in serious illness and disease, including HIV and hepatitis C."

Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds from the Family and Children’s Association said he opposes safe injection sites because "inviting folks into a government office to fill their veins with one of most powerful narcotics on the planet feels an awful lot like we are giving up and just accepting rampant heroin use as a fait accompli."

A bill (S 1081) that would allow supervised injection sites, filed by Sen. William Brownsberger, currently pends before the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery.

The Department of Public Health reported in February that at least 1,465 people died of unintentional opioid overdoses in 2016, with another 469 to 562 suspected opioid-related deaths -- an estimated increase of between 13 and 24 percent from 2015 to 2016.

There were 1,579 opioid overdose deaths in 2015 and 1,321 in 2014, according to DPH data.

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