By Guy Page
The Vermont American Civil Liberties Union (VT-ACLU) announced Dec. it will promote legislation for ‘Overdose Prevention Sites’ – locations where illegal drug use is allowed and overseen in the interest of user safety and rehabilitation.
Overdose prevention sites are facilities where people can use previously purchased drugs under trained supervision, according to Hopkins-Bloomberg Public Health. Providing sterile needles, health care services, and referrals to drug treatment, these sites aim to reduce the harms associated with drug use,
“This upcoming legislative session, we would like to see the State Legislature fully discuss and explore the feasibility of implementing an Overdose Prevention Site, or system of Overdose Prevention Sites, in Vermont,” the ACLU said Dec. 14.
The only other Overdose Prevention Sites in the U.S. opened this year in New York City. A press release issued by the NYC health department yesterday claims the pilot program averted 59 deaths in the first three weeks of operation.
The ACLU justifies the need for the drug use safe space by pointing to Vermont’s worst-in-the-nation rate of overdose increase: “in Vermont, between March 2020 and March 2021, there were 211 overdose fatalities, as compared to 114 for the previous 12-month period. The percentage change was 85%, which is the fastest one year increase by state in the country.”
The Overdose Prevention Site programs are popular in Europe but (except for NYC) unknown in the U.S., in part because a federal ‘crack house’ statute makes it a felony to “maintain any place” for using controlled substances, Hopkins-Bloomberg reports.