Letter to legislators

Hon. Mary S. Keefe
Ways and Means Committee, Massachusetts House of Representatives Room 473F
24 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02133
Representative Keefe:

We understand that Governor Baker’s CARE ACT (Opioid 2.0) will be coming up for a vote by the House of Representatives. The Steering Committee of SIFMA NOW, is asking that all members of the House of Representatives give serious consideration to amending and strengthening the Governor’s proposal by including language that would make Supervised Injection Facilities / Safe Consumption Spaces an option in addressing the current Opioid Crisis in the Commonwealth.

The Governor’s proposed legislation does not provide for this and, in our opinion, it is a serious deficiency as it is a proven harm reduction measure, one which we hope you will help correct before sending it to the floor of your respective chambers.

In any given individual case of preventing accidental overdose death, it is often hard to say what interventions might be most appropriate, but across large numbers of people who use drugs the answer is surprisingly clear. That intervention is called a Supervised Injection Facility (SIF). These facilities have a multi-decade, multi-national track record of reducing drug-related harms, in fact at the over 120+ legal sites around the world there have been millions of injections without a single fatality at any facility. Typically located in areas of concentrated poverty and drug use, over 120 of them function successfully in six countries. They allow people to inject their pre-obtained drugs under careful medical supervision; offer critically important drug testing in an age of widespread fentanyl contamination; and provide material and emotional support with options for access to treatment when requested. These spaces provide the safe, encouraging environment and the material support that are proven to help people stay alive, healthy and safe.

They are also proven to minimize blood-borne diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C, they save lives, they get along well with their neighbors (even when neighbors are initially opposed), they save millions in taxpayer dollars, and they have no meaningful downside after over 2 decades of research. They are a uniquely important tool in what needs to be a multi-pronged response to the overdose epidemic.

Despite intensive education on this subject, and despite the support of the American Medical Association, the Massachusetts Medical Association, and the Massachusetts Hospital Society, among others, Governor Baker opposes legislation that would help us catch up with communities like Philadelphia, New York, Denver, Seattle, Ithaca, and San Francisco which are already moving to establish SIF/SCS. We think this is a remarkable omission, and hope that you and your fellow Committee members will address this before reporting out the CARE ACT.

We should all be hard sells (as Governor Baker has described his position on SIFs) when evaluating policy proposals, but our responsibility as citizens, and certainly for political leaders, is to evaluate them fairly and to act on the evidence of which there is an abundance in this instance.

For Governor Baker to conclude, after decades of conclusive study, that more study is needed before committing to the possibility of beginning the lengthy process of creating such facilities is, in our opinion, a serious failure of leadership and will only prolong the overdose epidemic in the Commonwealth.

It is our hope that the House of Representatives will consider amending Governor Baker’s CARE ACT to make it possible for people in Massachusetts, both those struggling with Substance Use Disorder and the casual drug-using college student, to have Safe Injection Facilities / Safe Consumption Spaces available to them to prevent unnecessary death.

SIFMA NOW (in coalition with other organizations such as the Mass Medical Society, AIDS ACTION Committee, etc) is consulting with members of the House to shape and offer language that could be used to amend the CARE ACT.

If you would like additional information and our list of 75+ research studies showing the benefits of SIF/SCS we would be more than happy to provide you with it.

We hope you will join with us as we attempt to offer our families, friends and people struggling with Substance Use Disorder in the Commonwealth with an opportunity to access this proven and effective form of Harm Reduction.