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Applications to run safe injection sites being accepted

March 1, 2022 GMT

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Organizations that want to operate so-called harm reduction centers in Rhode Island, where people dealing with addiction can take heroin and other illegal drugs under proper medical supervision, can now submit an application to the state Department of Health.

“Harm reduction centers in Rhode Island will be an important part of Rhode Island’s approach to the drug overdose crisis,” department spokesperson Joseph Wendelken told WPRI-TV on Tuesday. “These community-based resources allow people to safely consume preobtained controlled substances in a supportive environment without legal repercussions.”

Gov. Dan McKee signed the law authorizing the sites last July, making Rhode Island the first state to enact such a measure. Other countries have long operated harm reduction sites, which are also referred to as safe injection sites or supervised injection sites. They remain illegal under federal law.

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The pilot program will run for two years, ending March 1, 2024, according to the legislation.

It will then be “evaluated to help us understand the full public health and community impact of harm reduction centers in our state,” Wendelken said.

Critics of the sites say they encourage drug use, but supporters say they can prevent fatal overdoses and connect people with treatment, recovery support and other health services.