State Democratic Party calls on lawmakers to decriminalize overdose prevention centers

BOSTON, January 6, 2023—The Massachusetts Democratic State Committee announces today that it has overwhelmingly endorsed legislation to legalize life-saving drug consumption care and grant municipalities the option of creating dedicated overdose prevention centers to combat the surge in fatal drug overdoses in Massachusetts.

In doing so, the Massachusetts Democratic State Committee has become one of the first state Democratic Parties in the country to formally endorse the creation of overdose prevention centers to save lives and connect people who use drugs to a range of medical, behavioral health, and substance use disorder services.

“We need common-sense law enforcement, and that doesn’t mean preventing our doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers from providing life-saving medical care. If we change the law, we will save lives,” said Democratic State Committee member Justin Klekota, who sponsored the resolution. “These settings prevent overdose deaths in the short term, and over the long term, overdose prevention centers connect people who use drugs to rehabilitation services and place them on a path to recovery.”

“We have an opioid crisis. Let’s make sure that consumption care is a tool that our communities can use for those who suffer from the disease of addiction,” said Somerville Mayor Katjana Ballantyne.

Between 2020 and 2021, deaths from drug overdoses increased 8.8 percent in Massachusetts. In 2021, 2,290 residents died of an opioid-related overdose with fentanyl present in 93 percent of the cases where a toxicology report was available. Overdose prevention centers have been shown to save lives by reducing overdose fatalities and, to date, there have been no overdose fatalities recorded at any of the 120 overdose prevention centers operating in 10 countries.

“I don’t believe we can count out any option that has the potential to save lives from substance use disorder,” said State Senator Julian Cyr (D – Truro), chair of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery. “The Mass Dems State Committee’s passage of a resolution in support of overdose prevention sites adds to the chorus of support for utilizing a tool to save lives in an epidemic that continues to ravage families and communities across the Commonwealth.”

“The 8.8 percent increase in overdose deaths from 2020 to 2021 indicates the need for a stronger public health response to this epidemic,” said Democratic State and National Committee member Melvin C. Poindexter. “The resolution in support of overdose prevention centers affirms the Massachusetts Democratic Party’s commitment to prioritizing public health and safety in the Commonwealth.”

The Massachusetts Medical Society, Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery, and the Massachusetts chapter of the National Association of Social Workers have endorsed overdose prevention centers as an effective harm reduction tool that saves lives.

“The lives of people with substance use disorder and their families are often governed by chaos and worry. Connecting high-risk users with health and social services through consumption care is a legitimate and compassionate pathway to accessing addiction treatment,” said Debby Kozikowski, Vice Chair of the Massachusetts Democratic Party.

In 2019, the Commonwealth’s Harm Reduction Commission, chaired by Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders, formally recommended the use of overdose prevention centers (a.k.a. supervised consumption sites) in Massachusetts as a means to reducing drug overdose fatalities. In its final report to the Massachusetts Legislature, the Harm Reduction Commission identified current law as an obstacle to public health, writing: “In order to pursue a pilot program of one or more supervised consumption sites, the challenges the Commonwealth must address include any gaps in legal protections for organizations and individuals who would staff a supervised consumption site and any state criminal and civil laws that may pose a barrier.”

“No one has to look far to find someone they care about who has been impacted by substance use and addiction. We know that overdose prevention centers are an important tool in keeping people alive. This resolution is very much in alignment with the Democratic Party principles of valuing all life and meeting people where they are,” said state Rep. Marjorie Decker (D – Cambridge), Chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health.

“Treating people who use drugs with dignity and respect is the first step in allowing them space to make decisions about their own bodies. When people are trusted and empowered to participate in their healthcare choices, we see better health outcomes,” said Carl Sciortino, Executive Vice President of External Relations at Fenway Health. “The rates of overdose deaths are continuing to rise and there is an urgent need to keep people alive and engaged in community. Overdose prevention centers provide a safe space for that opportunity and serve as a gateway to an array of healthcare interventions and services that keep people engaged in care.”

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