Mayor Marty Walsh considering setting up safe injection sites in Boston

BOSTON - The opioid epidemic has several U.S. cities have been considering setting up safe injection sites.

A safe injection site is not only a place for addicts to safely use drugs under medical supervision and using clean needles, therefore reducing the chances for contracting serious diseases such as HIV,l but also a place for addicts to receive counseling and help.

Boston's Mayor Marty Walsh has been skeptical of the idea for a while, but has recently expressed interest in considering the idea.

"I think that every option should be on the table," said Mayor Walsh.

Mayor Walsh's change of heart comes just a week after the federal government announced it would not recognize safe injection sites.

In a statement, U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said supervised injection sites would violate federal laws.

"I think they're dangerous," said Lelling in an interview with Boston 25 News.

MORE: US Attorney: Safe injection sites could be subject to federal criminal penalties

In his statement, Lelling essentially threatened to arrest those visiting or working at supervised injection sites.

"The opioid epidemic is the number one priority for the Justice Department," said Lelling. "You're not going to see us step back and not try to oppose efforts to essentially normalize illegal drug use."

A pilot program for safe injection sites was introduced as part of the opioid bill by the state legislature.

The head of the Senate Judiciary Committee says Lelling's statement was not the reason safe injection sites were pulled from the bill. He says that was a planned change from a couple of days before.

But the final bill on the Senate side, sent the program to a proposed study group, frustrating proponents like Jim Stewart, who says they save lives.

"All they do is work and it's about time that public officials caught up with the research," said Stewart, who works with the group SIFMA.

Stewart, however, says he's heartened that Mayor Walsh has slightly opened the door to an idea that other big city mayors back.

"It's encouraging to see that there's a public official willing to give this some serious consideration because the verdict is in as far as public health and medical research," said Stewart.

Mayor Walsh said he hasn't come full circle in support of supervised injection sites, but he does support the legislature's plan to further study the issue.

The proposal for supervised injection sites is now headed to a study commission, which is technically what Mayor Walsh says he supports.

"I think what we have to do is take a step back and really explore this, you know there is data on it but I don't think there's enough data," said Mayor Walsh.

Proponents, however, are citing studies that show supervised injection sites reduce overdose deaths, hospital visits and the transmission of diseases.

Some communities may also see another positive aspect of safe injection sites. A designated place for addicts to go and safely use drugs should mean fewer dirty needles out in public places.