This piece was originally published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on May 7th, 2023. you can find the original letter to the editor here:
It is disheartening to see the Pennsylvania Senate pass a bill to ban supervised injection facilities in our state (“Pa. lawmakers made moves on recruiting more diverse teachers and banning supervised injection sites,” May 2). Over 80,000 people died from opioid overdose in 2021, making the opioid epidemic the leading cause of death for Americans under 50.
In Allegheny County alone, there were 719 drug overdose deaths in 2021, 80% of which involved the synthetic opioid fentanyl .
The drug naloxone (commonly seen as a nasal spray, Narcan) is nearly 100% effective at reversing opioid overdose. However, current delivery forms require a capable bystander to administer the drug. When somebody overdoses, they’re often unconscious and lack sufficient motor control to self-administer the drug. Put simply, you can’t Narcan yourself.
Supervised injection sites provide a safe location for people to use their own drugs under the supervision of trained medical professionals.
The first such site in the United States opened in November 2021 in New York City and has intervened in more than 300 potentially fatal overdoses.
At supervised injection facilities in Vancouver, there have been 3.6 million visits since 2003, 6,440 overdose interventions, and zero deaths. In addition to the personnel and tools for the detection and reversal of overdose, these facilities can provide clean needles, basic primary care, referral to treatment programs and other specialized services.
I urge our state government to take a closer look at the evidence in favor of supervised injection sites: They are a critical tool as we fight to address the opioid epidemic.