On a needle’s edge
Safe injections sites — otherwise known as supervised injection facilities or overdose prevention sites — are a hot-button issue that produce strong opinions and reactions. That is just the nature of trying to tackle a complex and complicated issue that doesn’t have an easy answer.
What’s not an answer is outright banning them, as lawmakers in the Pennsylvania Senate are proposing to do with SB165.
We should debate the efficacy, the positives and the negatives. An outright no helps no one.
Let’s first talk about what safe injections sites do. The sites allow people struggling with addiction to use their drugs under the supervision of medical professionals.
The drugs are not provided, nor are they purchased on location. Medical professionals that assist use it as an opportunity to expose users to recovery options they may not have had or known about.
Supervised injections have been practiced in Europe, Australia and Canada for some time now.
New York opened two sites in Manhattan in 2021. Here in Philadelphia, as we work to combat the ongoing opioid epidemic, the idea has picked up steam.
Proponents of safe injection sites highlight the benefits, which include reducing the number of overdose deaths, providing access to healthcare and support services to people with substance use disorders — who are often some of society’s most vulnerable populations — and reducing the spread of diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C.
Opponents of safe injections sites have valid concerns, too, citing the potential negative effects the sites could have on urban communities. There are concerns that opening safe injections sites will bring more drug use to afflicted communities, increase crime rates and negatively impact property values.
What matters most, however, is that local authorities ensure the community’s residents have a say and a voice in the decision-making process, through community meetings, surveys and other forms of engagement. Only through trust building can we produce a collaborative approach that meets the needs of individuals struggling with addiction and the surrounding community.
Rep. Jason Dawkins chairs the Pennsylvania House Labor & Industry Committee.