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Connecticut considers safe injection sites following success in New York City

A man uses a safe injection site in New York City in January. A bill in California would allow pilot sites in San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles.
Kent Nishimura
Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
A man uses a safe injection site in New York City.

Connecticut lawmakers are considering a bill that would establish safe injection sites and more accessible mental and physical health services in the state. This harm reduction approach looks to prevent further overdose deaths.

Safe injection sites, also known as supervised injection sites, are places where people can inject opioids like heroin while under medical supervision to remove the risk of overdose or the spread of disease from shared needles.

State Senator Dr. Saud Anwar (D-East Hartford), who chairs the legislative Public Health Committee, led a roundtable Wednesday with Mark Jenkins, executive director for the Connecticut Harm Reduction Alliance, John Lally, nurse practitioner and executive director for Today I Matter Inc., and Traci Eburg, community engagement specialist at McCall Behavioral Health Network.

“Even one more death is too many,” Anwar said, “and we have to intervene.”

He noted that overdose deaths have overtaken gun violence, car accidents and suicides as a cause of death in the state — and across the country. He also said Connecticut is losing over 1,000 people annually and four people daily to opioid overdoses.

Connecticut would be the third state to implement these harm reduction sites after New York and Rhode Island. Advocates in New York City said the measure has prevented thousands of opioid overdoses and saved taxpayers $35 million after the opening of their safe injection sites.

“We are asking you all to think outside the box,” Jenkins said. “These are all things that are proven, that are credible, that have data behind them.”

Lally highlighted that it’s important to focus on the people who make up the statistics about overdoses, not just the numbers themselves. Lally lost his son Timothy to an overdose in 2016.

“Today when you hear people who will be hesitant about this policy, ask them how many more? Because if there’s a number they are waiting for I would like to know what that number is,” Anwar said.

Xenia Gonikberg is a former news intern at WSHU.