By Bob Katzen
Governor Charlie Baker rejected an idea recommended by his recently-created Harm Reduction Commission that Massachusetts should consider creating a pilot program for a safe drug injection site as another tool to prevent opioid overdose deaths. The site would be a medically supervised facility designed to provide a clean and safe environment in which users are able to take illegal recreational drugs intravenously. The facility would provide sterile injection equipment, information and counseling about drugs and treatment referrals.
The governor was responding to U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling’s statement that he would prosecute any supervised drug facility. “The U.S. attorney here has made absolutely crystal clear that he will prosecute anyone who tries to open up a safe injection site in Massachusetts,” Baker said. “They’re illegal under federal law. I’m not going to stand around and wait for something that can’t happen. I would rather focus on the stuff that can.”
The governor’s position is in direct conflict with the recommendations of the commission led by his Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders and its other members. Sudders has acknowledged that the pilot program would be a “hard sell” because of the legal issues. “I personally believe this is such a crisis and such an emergency that we need to do everything we can to keep people safe,” said commission member Sen. Cindy Friedman.