NJ may open ‘safe’ sites for drug users — This is how it would work
New Jersey lawmakers are considering a proposed pilot-program to open safe-injection sites, also known as overdose prevention centers, where people could bring their own drugs and "safely consume" them.
Legislation was introduced in October by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Bergen. An identical version of the bill was introduced in January by state Sens. Linda Greenstein, D-Mercer, and Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex.
Here is what we know so far about the proposal.
Where would the safe-injection sites be?
The legislation calls for four centers, located in Northern, Central and South Jersey.
As outlined by the measure, “Northern New Jersey” means Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Passaic, Sussex, and Warren counties.
“Southern New Jersey” means Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Ocean, and Salem counties.
“Central New Jersey” means Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Somerset, and Union counties.
A planned location could be rejected by a county or municipality, "if its governing body approves the action by ordinance." They would also have to follow up with a process outlined by the state health commissioner.
Would people using drugs there be at risk of arrest?
“No person shall be subject to civil or criminal liability or professional disciplinary action for any acts authorized under this section, including, but not limited to, possessing and self administering drugs while on the premises of an Overdose Prevention Center.”
Activity at each center also would remain confidential.
Would a safe-injection site still be illegal under federal law?
Yes. The U.S. Justice Department has threatened to take legal action against any city or state that opens such sites. In a New York Times op-ed in August, U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said "it is a federal felony to maintain any location for the purpose of facilitating illicit drug use. Violations are punishable by up to 20 years in prison, hefty fines and forfeiture of the property used in the criminal activity. The law also authorizes the federal government to obtain civil injunctions against violators."
Will police be monitoring them for security?
As the legislation is written, there is no mention of a police or security personnel presence or patrol.
What happens if someone overdoses at a center?
Each Overdose Prevention Center would be staffed by a healthcare professional, manager, employee, or volunteer as necessary. Each site also would be equipped with sterile syringes and medication to treat a drug overdose.
What would organizers do to connect people to treatment?
Centers would provide information and referrals to consumers, "including HIV testing options, access to medication-assisted substance use disorder treatment programs and other substance use disorder treatment programs, and available health and social service options relevant to the consumer's needs."
"The program shall encourage consumers to receive an HIV test, and shall, when appropriate, develop an individualized substance use disorder treatment plan for each participating consumer."
What stats are there on the impact on drug use and overdoses at existing safe-injection or overdose prevention centers?
There are roughly 120 such centers (also called supervised consumption services) operating in at least 12 countries around the world — Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Switzerland – but none in the United States.
New York City and San Francisco are among U.S. cities that have explored and supported the idea of safe injection sites, but so far none have been opened.
There has been no recorded overdose fatality at any of the safe injection sites.
The Drug Policy Alliance cites "over 100 evidence-based, peer-reviewed studies" on positive impacts of supervised consumption services, including Reducing HIV and Hepatitis C risk behavior and reducing drug-related overdose death rates.
What's the liability if someone dies or hurts someone else?
As the legislation is written, there is no mention of liability whether the death or injury happens on site or after the drug user leaves.
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