A new qualitative study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health identifies several key lessons from early efforts to establish sanctioned safe consumption sites in five U.S. communities.
The study was published online February 13 in the journal Psychiatric Services.
Safe consumption sites are places where people can use pre-obtained drugs with supervision from trained staff to intervene and prevent fatal overdoses. No sanctioned safe consumption site exists in the U.S. but policymakers in at least six states, including Maryland, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, New York and Vermont, have introduced legislation to establish safe consumption sites.
One of the most commonly reported barriers to establishing these sites was developing an approach to respond to federal action, given federal law prohibiting the operation of spaces for the use of drugs, the study found. This concern also has created challenges in identifying the right location and physical structure for the site. Financing remained a challenge although at least one community had allocated public funds for this purpose. Several communities emphasized that efforts would only be successful if trust was built among communities of color.
Co-authors include Dr. Alene Kennedy-Hendricks and Dr. Colleen Barry, with the Bloomberg School’s department of health policy and management, and Dr. Susan Sherman with the Bloomberg School’s department of health, behavior and society.