Somerville could be home to nation's first official safe injection facility

SOMERVILLE, Mass. — If Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone follows through on his promise, his community could be home to the nation's first official safe injection facility.

However, there are conflicting opinions as to whether Somerville wants that title.

"I don’t feel that allowing them to do it a safe injection site is the answer. I really don’t," said James Cafferky.

Mayor Curtatone is standing behind his logic, telling Boston 25 News:

"The opioid epidemic is a public health crisis that kills more than 100 people across the country each day and ignoring a harm reduction strategy simply because it may be difficult to implement only maintains that status quo."

>> Previous: Could safe injection sites be coming to Massachusetts?

Jim Stewart with Safe Injection for Massachusetts Now helped launch Cambridge's first safe needle exchange program and believes a legitimate above ground, supervised consumption site is long overdue.

“There’s absolutely no reason why anyone who’s familiar with literature wouldn’t get behind this," said Stewart.

He points to support from doctors, state legislators and hundreds of pages of published research focusing on safe injection sites, which now operate in more than a dozen countries, including Canada where Boston 25 News visited more than a year ago.

>> Supervised injection sites remove some risk for opioid drug users

"If we say you just started using again you’re condemned to live and die in the streets we’re not doing anything to improve the quality of life for anybody," said Stewart.

But opening a facility for people to inject themselves with heroin and fentanyl is illegal under federal and state law, according to Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling, who told us in a statement:

"Yes, people have died at supervised injection sites - it happened last October, in Ottawa, Canada.  No, there is no reliable statistical evidence that these sites do anything to reduce addiction rates, or even overall overdose death rates since fentanyl and other synthetics have come to dominate the opioid epidemic."

Massachusetts legislators are expected to consider changes in state laws and licensing regulations so that doctors and nurses can't be prosecuted for supervising illegal drug use.

Just this past February, federal prosecutors sued to block the opening of a supervised consumption site in Philadelphia and Lelling says he will take steps to do the same thing here - unless there is a change in the Justice Department's opinion.

>> Baker: Supervised injection sites not the answer for Mass.

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