Rhode Island is reportedly creating supervised spaces where drug users can inject illegal drugs — a landmark test of the idea that reducing harm is more effective than criminalization.
The two-year pilot is a first for any state, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The pilot plan would establish sites where users could also have drugs tested for potentially fatal doses of fentanyl, which drove overdose deaths to a nationwide record last year, the Journal reported.
Other states, including Massachusetts and California, are mulling similar plans, and even some cities have tried to legalize supervised-injection sites — including Philadelphia, where one was blocked from opening under a legal challenge from the Trump administration, the Journal noted.
Proponents say supervised injection sites can prevent overdose deaths; critics argue there’s no proof the sites reduce illegal drug use or dependency.
Rhode Island Democratic state Rep. Arthur Corvese called it “a moral oxymoron” to set rules and then create a space for people to break them, the Journal reported.
Rhode Island is set to codify rules for operating its supervised injection sites in January and aims to have locations agreed upon locally by March.
There won’t be any public funding.
A spokesman for Medicaid told the Journal the program doesn’t make payment for the administration of controlled substances that are illegal under federal law.
Amy Nunn, executive director of the Rhode Island Public Health Institute, said it isn’t clear how the site will obtain malpractice insurance or whether Medicaid will cover costs of treating users there. She said her group would pursue private donations and other sources of funding.
“People will put up a lot of roadblocks,” she said. “There’s just so much stigma associated with using drugs.”
Overdose deaths are the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, according to the Journal, and countries including Canada and the Netherlands have established similar safe-use sites.
Under the Biden administration, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which under previous administrations focused on drug criminalization, has named harm reduction as a priority for the first time — even as the administration supports a Trump-era policy that applied the stiffest criminal penalties for drug offenses to fentanyl-related substances, the Journal reported.
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