Gov. Baker rejects supervised drug injection site proposal
BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Charlie Baker brushed aside on Wednesday a proposal for Massachusetts to allow supervised injection sites for drug users.
The Republican told reporters the proposal is illegal under federal law and he wants to focus on legal actions the state is taking to curb overdose deaths.
Baker pointed to comments U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling has made warning that regardless of any state law, drug users and employees at the sites would be exposed to federal criminal charges.
“The U.S. attorney has made it absolutely crystal clear that he will prosecute anyone who tries to open up a safe injection site in Massachusetts,” Baker said. “Chasing something that’s not legal under federal law just doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
Baker said the state has already taken steps to curb drug-related deaths, including expanding access to the overdose-reversal drug Naloxone.
On Tuesday, a legislative commission recommended the state approve one or more supervised injection sites for drug users on a test basis.
Commission members said the state should allow the sites to see if they can help reduce the harm associated with injecting illegal drugs, including the risk of overdosing alone.
At the sites, individuals could inject drugs obtained elsewhere. Health care professionals would be on hand to prevent fatal overdoses.
Massachusetts Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders, who headed the commission, said the report will be delivered to the Legislature by the end of the week.
Baker said he would read the report.
Democratic Sen. Cindy Friedman, a member of the committee, said supervised injections sites are a way to give people a chance to ultimately get free of the drugs.
“We just need to do everything we can to stop people from dying and allow them to live long enough to decide to get into treatment,” Friedman said Tuesday.
The U.S. doesn’t have any publicly sanctioned safe injection facilities, but Philadelphia, Seattle and San Francisco are among those actively considering them. In Philadelphia, the top federal prosecutor has filed suit to stop a nonprofit from opening a supervised injection site.
Advocates have likened the sites to the adoption of needle exchange programs created in the wake of the AIDS epidemic as a way to slow the spread of the disease among intravenous drug users. There are currently about two dozen needle exchange sites in Massachusetts.
Baker pointed to the needle exchange programs as another legal step the state has taken to help those struggling with addiction.