By Paige Laver
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin joined with 80 current and former elected prosecutors, law enforcement leaders, and former Department of Justice officials in an amicus brief filed in the U.S. States Supreme Court in United States V Safe House, which supports efforts to open the nation’s first overdose prevention site.
Overdose prevention facilities utilize harm reduction tools that are lifesaving by reducing the detrimental impact of substance use disorder and the ongoing overdose epidemic. Substance use is a public health concern and there are ways that the public can help reduce the amount of lives that are lost each year by coming up with amicable solutions like the overdose prevention facilities.
This ultimately allows for safety within communities, a concept SFDA Boudin supports.
Criminal justice leaders from around the nation noted in the brief the serious need to move these strategies forward, especially at a time where 70,000 have fatally died from drug related overdoses in 2019, and the numbers have only gone up with the current coronavirus pandemic.
Mariam Krinsky, the Executive Director of Fair and Just Prosecution, the organization that coordinated the brief’s filing, said “Now more than ever we need every tool at our disposal to stem the rising tide of fatal overdoses that has surged in the wake of the isolation, reduced access to treatment and trauma associated with COVID-19.”
“Overdose prevention sites are a proven harm reduction strategy that saves lives and we must prioritize the sanctity of life after a year and a half of unimaginable loss in our communities. It is long past time to end our nation’s war on drugs and treat individuals who use substances with the dignity they deserve by offering them assistance, when needed rather than a jail cell,” Krinsky continued.
These sites provide a location to use drugs under the supervision of people trained to immediately reverse overdoses as well as serve as harm reduction outreach centers where people can receive medical care, access social services, and explore treatment options to begin their recovery.
While no overdose prevention sites currently exist in the U.S., the brief notes that 110 of these facilities exist in at least 11 other countries and none of which have reported a fatal overdose inside their facilities.
Multiple cities in the U.S. are pursuing to open overdose prevention sites, and Rhode Island recently became the first state to authorize an overdose prevention site pilot program.
SFDA Boudin said, “Every person lost to a drug overdose is of course a tragedy, it is also a tragedy that so many of these deaths can be prevented by the creation of safe consumption sites. Our city and country have been devastated by the skyrocketing deaths from overdoses. People in safe consumption sites simply do not die of overdoses.”
The brief’s signatories emphasize that not only are prevention sites effective at saving lives but they also serve an important role in building community trust in law enforcement and the criminal legal system.
As the amicus brief states, “There is an urgent need to fortify trust in the justice system. Failing to address the loss of life resulting from drug overdoses and criminalizing a community based public health organization working to save lives will further erode trust. If there ever was a time to demonstrate that the justice system values the dignity of human life, that time is now.”