Justice Department might be open to safe injection sites

Safe Injection Sites Philadelphia
Posted at 5:09 PM, Feb 07, 2022

The Justice Department has signaled that the agency might be open to allowing so-called safe injection sites, or safe havens for people to use heroin and other narcotics with protections against fatal overdoses.

The department's stance comes a year after federal prosecutors won a major court ruling that found the sites would violate federal law. The Department of Justice said it is talking to regulators about "appropriate guardrails" for the sites. The first officially authorized safe injection sites opened in New York City in November. Advocates have hailed the safe havens as a way to curb the scourge of overdose deaths.

“It’s bringing people inside. This results in less drug use out in the neighborhood as well and an opportunity to connect people to services,” said Rita Shashin who is a part of an organization known as The Works opened in 2017 under Toronto Public Health’s opioid harm reduction program in Canada. The site had 60,000 visits in a two-year span.

Places like Canada, Australia and Europe have offered safe injection sites and the idea had been discussed for years in U.S. cities and states like New York.

According to the Associated Press, the Justice Department said it is "evaluating" safe injection havens and consulting with regulators to examine the “appropriate guardrails.”

In a statement, the agency said “Although we cannot comment on pending litigation, the Department is evaluating supervised consumption sites, including discussions with state and local regulators about appropriate guardrails for such sites, as part of an overall approach to harm reduction and public safety.” 

In November the first two authorized safe injection havens opened in New York, called “overdose prevention centers” by the city.

According to the Associated Press, the New York sites have so far intervened in more than 125 overdoses out of more than 640 users. Many of those users made multiple visits to the centers, according to the center running them which is called OnPoint NYC.