Harm reduction advocates received positive news this week as the city of Seattle announced plans to establish the US's first ever 'safe injection facility'. This follows a similar announcement made in Ireland only one month ago.
Such places are officially known as supervised injection facilities (SIFs).
The opening of SIFs will be funded and facilitated by the People’s Harm Reduction Alliance of Seattle.
Outspoken Shilo Murphy, executive director of the programme, said: "People need to get on the bandwagon, or get the fuck out of our way".
There's a clear need for SIFs as Seattle has one of poorest records in all of America when it comes to reducing opiate-related deaths.
The move makes Seattle the most progressive and liberal city in all of America when it comes to harm reduction measures. This is because SIFs currently cannot be found anywhere else in this vast country. Many people believe the announcement is a sort of 'tip of the spear' and will open the floodgates for the opening of other SIF elsewhere in America.
There are already increasing calls to open SIFs in New York City.
Dr. Caleb Banta-Green of the University of Washington and prominent harm reduction advocate said: "SIFs have very good health outcomes and do not have a big downside."
In the last five years, US related opiate overdoses and deaths have soared.
Harm reduction advocates believe SIFs will reduce this number. Many also believe SIFs will reduce the number of people getting infected with chronic blood diseases such as hepatitis C.
Statistics from other countries that have introduced these measures confirm that SIFs do indeed reduce opiate-related deaths and infection to 'blood-borne' diseases.
For instance, data published by InSite, a Vancouver-based SIF, reveals the opening of SIFs in Canada has lead to a reduction in deadly overdoses and injection induced blood diseases.
InSite's report lists the following benefits derived from the opening of SIFs in Canada:
- Encourages addicts to stick with harm reduction based addiction treatments
- Reduction in crime in areas where SIFs operate, including a reduction in 'public injecting'
- Reduction in deadly diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C
- Successfully treats overdoses since SIFs have access to medically trained staff
- Huge savings in medical costs associated with overdose and blood borne diseases
- Not increasing initiation into injection drug use
- Provides the first opportunity for many addicts to initiate the process of addiction treatment
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