Worcester takes a step toward opening the state’s first ‘safe injection’ site

WORCESTER, Mass. — The City of Worcester could become the first community in Massachusetts to open an overdose prevention center, which is more commonly referred to as a safe injection site, for people who use heroin, fentanyl, or other drugs under medical supervision.

Worcester’s Board of Health voted unanimously on Monday night to support piloting the idea.

City Councilor Etel Haxhiaj called the vote an “important public health solution to overdose deaths,” in a post on social media.

Worcester’s City Manager Eric Batista made clear in a statement on Tuesday that no safe injection site will open any time soon.

“The administration is working on a report for City Council in response to Councilor Haxhiaj’s order relative to the data on Overdose Protection Centers (OPC) and expects it to be transmitted in the near future,” according to the statement from Batista’s office.

“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. At such time, further conversations will be had among City officials, City Council, health providers, stakeholders, and the community at large.”

Councilor Haxhiaj also said she recognized a lot more needs to happen before any safe injection site could open.

“We do have good harm reduction organizations and health care professionals that know how to do this work,” said Haxhiaj. “If State DPH gives the green light for a pilot, there is a lot of work ahead. But, this is an incredible first step.”

Haxhiaj said she hoped Worcester’s City Council would be fully behind it.

Other communities, like Somerville, have taken steps to open a safe injection site as well.

The Worcester Telegram & Gazette reports 141 died in Worcester from opioid-related overdoses in 2022 and the city’s rate of deaths exceeds that of the City of Boston.

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

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