NJ could soon open safe-injection sites for drug users
New Jersey lawmakers are considering a proposal to allow the state Department of Health to open four safe-injection sites where drug addicts could shoot up without fear of arrest.
Roseanne Scotti, the director of the New Jersey Drug Policy Alliance, said these locations, also called overdose prevention centers or safe consumption rooms, are needed because the opioid overdoes epidemic continues to spiral out of control.
“We lost more than 3,000 people last year, so this is another attempt to bring people in out of the shadows and get them the help that they need and keep them safe," she said last week. "Dead people don't recover."
Rather than having people with a substance abuse disorder getting high in back alleys or alone in their cars, she said “they could go and use the drugs they already have and there would be medical personnel there to make sure that they don’t overdose and to offer them access to treatment and other social services.”
There are about 120 overdose prevention centers around the world. There are none in this country, but several states, including New York, are considering the idea.
The centers would provide clean syringes and disinfecting wipes in order to avoid the spread of HIV and hepatitis C.
Medical personnel would have naloxone to revive anyone who overdosed, in addition to treating any other emergency.
Scotti explained these centers would also offer coffee and a bite to eat to encourage users to feel comfortable and form relationships with the personnel inside. The idea is to eventually get them into drug rehabilitation programs.
“What we’re doing with these centers is normalizing compassion and normalizing saving lives," she said.
Opponents, however, argue that opening these kinds of centers might be taken as a sign of condoning illegal drug use.
But Scotti said that "these are individuals who are already using drugs.”
“If this was your loved one, would you rather have them using drugs alone in a car or in a back alley or in an abandoned house, or would you rather have them in a safe place?”
Assemblywoman Valeria Vainieri Huttle, D-Bergen, is sponsoring the measure with state Sens. Joe Vitale, D-Middlesex, and Linda Greenstein, D- Mercer.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com