BOSTON — The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, or ICER, released this study on Sept. 24, looking at the impact a safe injection site could have on the six major US cities, including Boston. The independent think tank’s report looked at the impact on both lives saved, but also on money saved by the reduction in medical services provided by the cities.
The study projected a safe injection site in Boston would save the city 773 ambulance rides, 551 emergency room visits, and 264 hospitalizations.
“Given that each hospitalization is upwards of $5,000, that adds up quickly. This is a lot of unnecessary health care expenditures that are prevented when such a site opens,” said Brown University associate professor of epidemiology Brandon Marshall, who formally reviewed the report.
Researchers estimated Boston’s cost savings per year, even with the operation costs of a site would equal more than $4,000,000.
IMPACT ON METHADONE MILE?
Boston 25 News has reported extensively on the issues of public drug use, littering, and even defecation on so-called “Methadone Mile” in the neighborhood near Melnea Cass Boulevard. We asked Marshall if he thought a safe injection site would impact those problems.
He says safe injection sites in cities across Canada have helped with the kinds of issues happening in Boston.
“What the studies show was, in fact, when these facilities are opened, public disorder like public injection, or injection related litter actually goes down,” Marshall said. “Businesses were actually happy, they felt that the neighborhood was improved as a result of this site opening.”
RECENT HISTORY OF SAFE INJECTION SITES AND CONTROVERSY
25 Investigates traveled to Montreal to take an inside look at how safe injection sites work. They offer a place where addicts can inject with clean supplies, while site workers look out for potential overdoses. Our team was given similar reports of crime and the reduction in needle litter in the area.
US Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling has gone on the record with strong opposition to sites here.
Somerville’s mayor has taken the opposite stance. In 2019, Joseph Curtatone said he wanted a site in his city by the end of 2020 to save lives and divert more addicts into treatment.
Marshall tells Boston 25 News, he thinks the cost savings in the report may actually be conservative, and that health costs saved from the prevention other addiction-related illnesses, due to a safe injection site could save the city even more.
“This is an intervention that we can turn to that we know works and could address the rapid increases in overdose deaths that we’re seeing in Boston and across the region,” Marshall said.
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