Health Care

DOJ to evaluate providing safe havens for drug use

The Justice Department said it is “evaluating” the potential use of safe injection sites for people to take heroin and other narcotics with protections against fatal overdoses. 

“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,” the department told The Associated Press on Monday.

The Hill has reached out to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for comment.

Biden’s DOJ, led by Attorney General Merrick Garland, has previously refused to take a public stance on such safe havens. Such a policy would mark a major shift from the stance of the Trump administration’s DOJ. 

Prosecutors previously argued against a plan for a safe consumption site in Philadelphia, and the department won that case after an appeals court decided such a facility would violate a decades-old drug law. 

The court said in that case that “though the opioid crisis may call for innovative solutions, local innovations may not break federal law,” according to the DOJ.

Last year, then-New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) announced that the city had approved the opening of a supervised drug consumption facility, known as an “overdose prevention center.”

“New York City has led the nation’s battle against COVID-19, and the fight to keep our community safe doesn’t stop there. After exhaustive study, we know the right path forward to protect the most vulnerable people in our city. And we will not hesitate to take it,” de Blasio said.

“Overdose Prevention Centers are a safe and effective way to address the opioid crisis. I’m proud to show cities in this country that after decades of failure, a smarter approach is possible,” he added. 

The sites in New York have intervened in more than 125 overdoses in more than 640 users, the AP added.

Similar overdose prevention centers exist in Europe, Australia and Canada.

Tags Bill de Blasio Drug culture Drug overdose Drug policy Harm reduction Merrick Garland Safe injection site safe injection sites Supervised injection site

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