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Safe Injection Sites - "Enable Them or Bury Them"


Originally Published: 03/22/2017

Post Date: 03/25/2017

by Channel 6 News | Jessica Gagne


Safe injection sites have been responsble for saving thousands of lives over the last thirty years and are considered to be the gold standard in overdose prevention.



(NEWS CENTER) — We talked about this Wednesday on NOW, and there are hundreds of opinions on our Facebook page, all related to safe injection spaces. They are places where people can go to use heroin under the supervision of a medical professional. Clean needles are provided, and staff members can administer Narcan if someone is overdosing.

They also provide access to treatment.

As of now, these only exist outside our borders, but some U.S. cities are pushing forward on making them a reality here. Seattle is one of those cities— the health board voted in January to move forward on plans for two safe injection sites.

Wednesday, a state much closer to Maine came forward. Officials in Vermont say they are creating a task force to see if these sites could help save lives in their state.

» RELATED: Vermont considers safe injection sites for drug users

It's not happening in Maine at the moment, but some think we should look into having these kinds of spaces here too. Tim Cheney of Grace Street recovery services spoke to me at his Sanford office about how he thinks safe injection sites can be a life saving resource that reduce public health costs, bring users out of the shadows, and put them in touch with the help they need.

"Would you like to be taking your child through a shortcut in an alley and see an addict lying there dead with a needle when he could have been in a medical facility because he has a disorder?" Cheney said. "People are observed when they are taking the injection. No body dies. So the question is, would you rather enable them, or bury them?"

Just down the road at the Sanford Fire Department, Captain Brian Watkins isn't convinced. He and his colleagues often have to use Narcan to revive heroin users when they respond to an overdose. He thinks more can be done to get people the help they need, without giving them a place to shoot up.

"I think there are better ways to do it. Programs like that just to me, enable people," said Watkins. "I don't know how it can work because there are going to be people that know how to play the game and cut the corners and go in there and do their thing and then leave, and it still becomes our problem. It still becomes law enforcement's problem."