- The Denver City Council approved an ordinance to allow the opening of a facility where opioid users can go to safely inject drugs. In a tweet, the council said it intends for no public funds to be used on the project.
- The two-year pilot program would provide clean needles and trained professionals to monitor illegal drug users to prevent overdoses and the spread of diseases from shared needles, reports Colorado Public Radio. Medical professionals also would have on-hand overdose antidote medications.
- The facility will not come to fruition unless the Colorado State Assembly votes to approve safe injection sites.
The possibility of Denver's safe injection site moving forward all hinges on whether the Colorado legislature approves a law change to allow such facilities. A similar bill failed during the 2018 legislative session.
If the Denver site wins approval, it will be the first facility of its kind in the country. A handful of other cities, including Philadelphia, have announced their interest in opening safe injection sites. San Francisco tried but could not get state approval.
Leaders across the country are trying to find ways to curb the tide of opioid deaths. Earlier this year, Denver released its Opioid Response Strategic Plan to increase awareness and understanding of the root causes of substance use, decrease the stigma of substance use, reduce systemic barriers to accessing services and ensuring sufficient funding and capacity.
Opioid addiction is a difficult problem for cities to tackle not just because of the sheer number of overdose cases and the rate of growth, but also the severity of opioids' effects on humans. Some cities — including Bloomberg Philanthropies' Mayors Challenge winner Huntington, WV — are providing specialized opioid training to first responders. Some trainings explain why physicians believe opioids change the way the human brain works, making opioid addiction a chronic and progressive disease that is incredibly difficult to beat.
Some cities in Canada and Europe already have safe injection sites and consider them successful in preventing overdose deaths and reducing harm both to drug users and the greater public.