We Asked, You Answered: Would You Welcome A Supervised Injection Facility In Your Community?
While previously taboo within the U.S., the idea of opening supervised injection facilities (SIFs) is currently gaining traction in numerous cities across the country. In light of Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, Ithaca, Philadelphia and New York each announcing its intention to consider establishing legally sanctioned, medically supervised settings where people can inject previously obtained drugs (such as heroin and other opioids), we asked our followers, “would you welcome a supervised injection facility in your community?” More than half of all respondents – 54 percent, to be precise – replied “yes.”
Due to legal barriers and the threat of federal government interference, no SIFs (also frequently referred to as "safe injection facilities") exist in the United States. Additionally, many government officials and community members are concerned these sites will normalize drug use or disincentivize people from seeking treatment.
Yet, as we pointed out in our previous blog post, evidence suggests that SIFs offer numerous benefits to communities affected by high rates of intravenous drug use, including:
- Managing overdoses and reducing death rates
- Increasing access to and utilization of drug treatment services
- Limiting the spread of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C
- Reducing the prevalence of bacterial infections
- Improving community safety by reducing the amount of publicly discarded needles
- Cost savings from reduced disease and emergency medical services
At least 66 cities around the globe are now home to SIFs, including Bern, Switzerland, which opened the world’s first SIF in 1986. The site of North America’s first SIF – Vancouver, Canada – saw fatal overdoses drop by 35 percent in its first two years of operation, after opening in 2003. Philadelphia is hoping for similar results, as it may be the first U.S. city to open a SIF.
While stigma may make some wary of welcoming SIFs in their area, the staggering impact of the opioid epidemic paints another picture. With 116 people dying every day, we should be leveraging every tool at our disposal to save lives and get people into effective treatment. Although SIFs are not the only solution or even the most ideal solution to the addiction epidemic, we cannot afford to dismiss outright any initiative that has been shown to save lives so that more people with addiction have the opportunity to get the treatment they need.
Amber Vandeyar is an administrative assistant at Center on Addiction