(BOSTON) — Friday marked the final day of a mock safe-injection site in Boston designed to familiarize the public with what a potential facility might look like.
“We want to demystify safe-injection sites and give the public a sense that this is a medical procedure, like anything else,” Dr. Mark Eisenberg, a primary care physician and assistant professor of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, who oversaw the event, told ABC News.
Safe injection sites, where drug users can inject in hygienic facilities, under supervision, are currently illegal in the United States.
After a ruling by a federal judge in Philadelphia earlier this month, which found that a nonprofit with plans to open a site in the city did not violate federal law, has renewed interest in the idea.
Eisenberg thinks the Philadelphia ruling might have piqued the public’s interest in the Boston-based demonstration, which was far better attended than similar events in years past.
The demonstration was set up in a health center in the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston and featured a table equipped with a mirror, water and sterile equipment. The three-day event drew dozens of curious attendees, including members of the community, legislative aids and representatives from a local district attorney’s office.
In addition to Philadelphia, cities like Seattle, Denver, San Francisco and New York all have nascent plans to open their own sites. In Massachusetts, there’s an ongoing battle between the mayor of Somerville, who supports a supervised injection site in his city and Gov. Charlie Baker, who staunchly opposed them.
While offering a place for people to use drugs might seem counterintuitive, public health experts have said that the sites reduce the spread of infectious disease and connect drugs to the health care system.
The issue is personal for Eisenberg, who’s had dozens of patients die of drug overdoses during his years working as a primary care physician. The reality is that people use drugs, he explained, and the goal is to is to give people the option to avoid using under unsafe conditions, such as in a bedroom or alleyway.
It’s not enabling drug use, Eisenberg added: “We are enabling people to stay alive.”
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