Opinions clash in Worcester over potential for state’s first safe injection site

WORCESTER, Mass. — Opinions are clashing in Worcester over the potential of a safe injection site opening in the second largest city in Massachusetts.

Worcester is now the first municipality in the Commonwealth to officially approve a safe injection pilot program.

The Board of Health voted 4-0 on Monday night to approve a safe injection site, also known as an overdose prevention center.

It will now have to go through the state legislation process before any possible plans move forward.

There’s still no indication of how soon one of these sites could potentially open in Worcester.

“We’re doing all this stuff to save people who don’t want to be saved,” said Worcester resident Crystal Acquah. “As a taxpayer, I do not want to spend my tax money on that.”

Somerville had previously been the only city in the Commonwealth pushing forward with specific plans for a site where people can consume illicit drugs under the supervision of medical personnel.

New York City is currently home to the only two safe injection facilities operating in an official capacity in the U.S.

“We have a high population of people in Worcester who are addicts,” said Worcester resident Lisa Correa. “When you hear about it at first, you think enabling. Why are we helping these people stay high?”

Critics believe the sites, which are federally illegal, encourage illegal drug use.

Supporters say research shows they cut overdose deaths and save lives.

“What I hope the example in Worcester will show is overdose prevention centers are really for all cities in America, whether you’re a mid-sized city or a large city,” said Abdullah Shihipar with the Brown University School of Public Health.

Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty said he welcomes a greater discussion as a community on the topic.

“The City of Worcester is fully aware of the ongoing opioid crisis and we are working to address this on a daily basis,” said Petty. “This program is something the City will continue to study and analyze for potential outcomes to make sure we are thoughtful in doing this.”

A spokesperson for City Manager Eric Batista told Boston 25 News that the administration is working on a report that includes more data on safe injection sites.

“No action will be taken on the potential operation of an OPC in the City of Worcester until further guidance is provided by the State of Massachusetts,” said a statement from the City Manager. “At such time, further conversations will be had among City officials, City Council, health providers, stakeholders, and the community at large.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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