ACTION ALERT! Denver City Council to Vote on Supervised Use Site Ordinance
On Monday, the Denver City Council will read and vote on a proposed ordinance that would allow a pilot program for supervised consumption spaces, also called overdose prevention centers.
Thank you to the Harm Reduction Action Center of Denver; all the service providers working directly with people who use drugs; and the broader coalition of organizations, public health experts, and legislators working in Denver — and in other cities — to bring supervised consumption spaces to the U.S. And thank you to Mayor Hancock and the City Council for bringing this critical piece of legislation to a vote. We appreciate your commitment to public health and safety.
If you live in Denver, you can help by sending letters to your council members and to Mayor Hancock (use this web form). You can also help by spreading the word about the vote on social media — be sure to tag the Harm Reduction Action Center — @HRAC_Denver — and use the hashtag #DenverWantsSupervisedUseSites.
You can also show your support in person! Attend the first reading and vote on Monday, Nov. 19 @ 5:30pm in the City and County Building 1437 Bannock St., 4th Floor.
LEAP’s support letter to the Mayor is pasted below.
Speakers Bureau & Media Relations Director
Dear Mayor Hancock,
On behalf of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership, we write to you in support of the pilot supervised consumption site (SCS) ordinance proposed by Councilman Albus Brooks. Last year, 959 Coloradoans lost their lives to overdoses[i], more than any year in our history. They left behind grieving friends and family who wonder what could have been done to prevent them. A supervised consumption site would allow Denver to provide services that would reduce drug overdose fatalities and set an example for the rest of the state and the country for how to emerge from the opioid crisis with healthier and stronger communities.
Supervised consumption sites, also called supervised injection facilities or overdose prevention centers, are medical facilities where individuals are able to use drugs in a clinical setting with expert supervision and sterile supplies. Over 120 exist around the world in countries including Germany and Canada[ii]. SCS reduce health and safety problems associated with drug use[iii], including public drug use[iv], discarded syringes[v], HIV and hepatitis transmissions[vi], and overdose deaths.[vii]The facilities also connect people who use drugs to support services and treatment. Participants are also more likely to enter treatment and to stop using drugs because they’re connected to an above-ground support network.[viii]
Data gathered from sites in Canada show no increase in local drug trafficking or robberies a year after opening, while vehicle thefts and break-ins declined.[ix]
As a group composed of police, prosecutors, judges, and corrections officials who have been on the front lines of the War on Drugs, we understand the value of providing a safe place to consume dangerous substances. Heroin, fentanyl, and other synthetic opioids are criminalized and stigmatized, which leads users to consume in dark alleys and abandoned buildings. The more we ignore people who need our help, the more tragic their stories become. We’ve made them wait long enough for solutions; the least we can do is keep them from dying alone.
The overdose crisis also directly impacts emergency first responders and our public safety resources. Every time EMS and police are called to the scene of an overdose, the community is dispatching limited human and fiscal resources to address a growing problem these service providers don’t have the ability to solve. Since nurses can respond to overdoses immediately in a SCS, there’s no need to call emergency services and divert them from other serious problems which also need their attention. Plus, after responding to so many overdose calls, police and EMS are weary and feel hopeless in their ability to help. Emergency services can only respond after an overdose has already occurred — they usually aren’t able to prevent the circumstances which lead to overdose or help people into treatment. We haven’t provided another viable alternative to responding to overdose calls, so first responders are expected to fill in. They have willingly and courageously taken on this responsibility, but they shouldn’t have to. Nurses and direct service providers are ready — all we need to do is let them take the wheel.
This pilot program could also reduce the likelihood of police officers contracting infectious diseases from needle-stick injuries. SCS provide a safe location where people can dispose of their used syringes, reducing the risk posed to law enforcement and the wider community.
Please approve this program and show everyone we’re paying attention to the research and listening to public health experts. We can show the families of overdose victims and overdose survivors we are working toward solutions that will save lives.
The Law Enforcement Action Partnership
Judge Leonard Frieling (Fmr.), Denver representative
Deputy Sheriff Carrie Roberts (Fmr.), Denver representative
Deputy Marshal Jason Thomas (Fmr.), Denver representative
Police Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director
Police Lt. Diane Goldstein (Ret.), executive board chair
[i]Ingold, John. “More Coloradans Died Last Year from Drug Overdoses than Any Year in the State’s History. That Shows How the Opioid Epidemic Is Changing.” The Denver Post, April 4, 2018. Accessed November 15, 2018. https://www.denverpost.com/2018/04/04/colorado-drug-overdoses-opioid-deaths-hit-high/.
[ii]”Supervised Consumption Services.” Drug Policy Alliance. Accessed November 15, 2018. http://www.drugpolicy.org/issues/supervised-consumption-services.
[iii]C. Potier et al, “Supervised injection services: What has been demonstrated? A systematic literature review,” Drug Alcohol Depend118, no.2–3 (2011): 100–10
[iv]Evan Wood, et al., “Changes in public order after the opening of a medically supervised safer injecting facility for illicit injection drug users,” CMAJ171(7) (2004): 731–734
[v]Steven Petrar et al., “Injection Drug Users’ Perceptions Regarding Use of a Medically Supervised Safer Injecting Facility,” Journal of Addictive Behaviors32, no.5 (2007):1088–1093
[vi]Salaam Semaan et al., “Potential role of safer injection facilities in reducing HIV and Hepatitis C infections and overdose mortality in the United States,” Drug & Alcohol Dependence118 (2011): 100– 110
[vii]Brandon D.L. Marshall et al., “Reduction in overdose mortality after the opening of North America’s first medically supervised safer injecting facility: a retrospective population-based study,” Lancet377 (2011): 1429–37
[viii]Evan Wood et al., “Rate of detoxification service use and its impact among a cohort of supervised injecting drug users,” Addiction102 (2007):916–19.
[ix]Wood, Evan, Mark W. Tyndall, Calvin Lai, Julio SG Montaner, and Thomas Kerr. “Impact of a Medically Supervised Safer Injecting Facility on Drug Dealing and Other Drug-related Crime.” Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, May 8, 2006, 1–4. Accessed November 15, 2018. https://substanceabusepolicy.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1747-597X-1-13#Bib1.