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Lelling warns Legislature on supervised injection sites

July 20, 2018
State House News Service
State House News Service
U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling.

Ahead of an expected Senate vote Thursday on an opioid addiction prevention bill that would authorize supervised sites for illegal drug use, the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts said anyone who uses or works at such a facility would likely face federal charges "regardless of any state law or study."

Under the bill expected to get a vote in the Senate on Thursday, the Department of Public Health would develop regulations for a pilot site offering supervision and medical care to illegal drug users. People addicted to drugs would be allowed to use their pre-obtained narcotics there and gain access to medical treatment to prevent overdoses as well as optional counseling and treatment referrals.

U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling said such sites violate federal drug laws and that he "cannot envision any scenario in which sites that normalize intravenous use of heroin and fentanyl would be off limits to federal law enforcement efforts."

"Heroin use fuels a deadly drug trade that is ravaging our state and the region, and my office is keenly focused on curbing the opioid and heroin epidemic. Providing a sanctuary to accommodate risky and lethal illegal drug use undermines all of the hard work of treatment providers and law enforcement across the Commonwealth," Lelling, an appointee of President Donald Trump, said. "The opioid epidemic requires that we remain laser-focused on prevention, treatment, and enforcement – not the normalization of intravenous use of heroin and fentanyl."

The concept of supervised injection sites has gained support from major players in the state's medical community as Massachusetts grapples with an epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose deaths. The Massachusetts Medical Society voted last year to endorse a state pilot program for supervised injection facilities, and the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association's Board voted unanimously to advocate for the creation of such facilities. Supervised injection sites have been launched in other countries, but so far none have become operational in the United States.

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