Massachusetts lawmakers set to discuss safe injection sites Monday

BOSTON — Massachusetts lawmakers will spend all day Monday discussing several proposals that would legalize safe injection sites in the Commonwealth.

Safe injection sites, otherwise known as supervised consumption sites, are places where people could use illegal drugs under medical supervision.

Similar bills have been met with political pushback in the past, but advocates for the supervised spaces believe the sites are long overdue.

One of the bills would create a 10-year pilot program “establishing two or more supervised consumption sites that utilize harm reduction tools, including clinical monitoring of the consumption of pre-obtained controlled substances in the presence of trained staff, for the purpose of reducing the risks of disease transmission and preventing overdose deaths.”

The site would have to provide sterile injection supplies, collect used hypodermic needles and syringes, and provide secure hypodermic needle and syringe disposal services — as well as offer referrals to addiction treatment and education on the risk of contracting HIV and viral hepatitis.

“We’re hoping we can move this along and give people who are struggling with substance use disorder a chance to save their lives and reclaim their place in the community,” said Jim Stewart, with SIFMA Now.

The city of Somerville has already volunteered to open the first safe injection site in the state.

Governor Baker has previously vocalized opposition to legalizing supervised consumption sites.

“Why continue helping them with their habit?,” questioned Kevin McCarthy, who’s opposed to the idea. “You’d rather give them help rather than give them a place.”

In July, Rhode Island Gov. Daniel McKee signed into law a bill authorizing the opening of supervised consumption sites— making Rhode Island the first to enact such a statewide measure to combat the opioid crisis.

“Whatever is going on now ain’t working,” said James Lund, who lost a friend to overdose last month. “I know of at least two lives that would have been saved recently.”

Lund told Boston 25 News he feels supervised consumption sites are long overdue in Massachusetts where the opioid crisis continues to escalate.

He carries a backpack full of Narcan with him at all times.

“I have saved a friend’s life with Narcan. I had to give him mouth to mouth. It took three of them to bring him back,” explained Lund.

The virtual hearing by the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use, and Recovery will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday. From 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. the hearing will focus on the two decriminalization bills and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the three supervised consumption site bills.