PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WBZ NewsRadio) — Rhode Island may become the first state in the U.S. to host safe injection sites for illegal drug users.
The state legislature passed a bill last week that would create a two-year pilot program to create "harm reduction centers" to host health screening, disease prevention, and recovery assistance for people to "safely consume pre-obtained substances."
Each center would require the approval of the city or town council where it would operate in.
“The opioid epidemic has become a tremendous public health crisis, with overdoses of prescription and non-prescription opioids claiming a record number of lives,” Rhode Island Rep. John G. Edwards said. “Not only do harm reduction centers severely mitigate the chance of overdose, they are a gateway to treatment and rehabilitation of people with substance abuse disorder."
Edwards, who helped introduce the bill along with Rhode Island State Sen. Joshua Miller, said it would be a way to "tackle this epidemic while saving lives in the process."
The bill would also create an advisory committee to make recommendations to the Department of Health on how to maximize the potential of the centers and properly dispose of needles and syringes.
Lawmakers said 10 countries already sanction the operation of harm reduction centers, but this bill would make Rhode Island the first U.S. state to do so.
According to the American Medical Association, supervised injection sites in other countries have significantly reduced overdose deaths and transmission of diseases for drug users.
The legislation now awaits final approval from Rhode Island Governor Daniel McKee.
Written by Rachel Armany