State Rep. Leslie Herod (D-Denver) says a bill to bring a supervised drug injection site to Denver will be introduced on the first day of the legislative session in January.
She and Denver City Council President Albus Brooks explained their vision at a community meeting on tacking the opioid epidemic on Thursday evening. They say it has bipartisan support and would be modeled after Vancouver’s site, the only supervised, safe injection site in North America.
Brooks visited Vancouver’s “Insite” recently and says the site saves lives and reduces health risk.
The Harm Reduction Action Center also participated in Thursday’s community meeting. It’s a public health group that provides clean needles and overdose reversing drugs to users in Denver.
That group reports that 80 percent of the overdoses reported by those they serve happen in public or semi-public places such as restaurant restrooms. 174 people in Denver died of an overdose in 2016. At least 20 of those people died outside.
“We don’t want our public libraries, our parks, near our schools to be places where addicts are feeding their needs,” said Herod who reminded the crowd that the library has become ground zero for drug use. The library currently has two full-time social workers and four part-time “peer navigators” to work with those struggling with addiction.
A Denver safe use site would include supervisors trained in using the overdose reversal drug Narcan. Needles would be provided to ensure disease does not spread.
While there’s bipartisan support Herod recognizes some in the community may have some concerns about spending money on a center that allows illegal drugs to be consumed.
“It brings people into recovery and keeps our community safer but we know there are some concerns around I, and some fears. And so what we want to do is address that fear as a community,” she said.
If the state legislature votes to bring a test site to Denver, the city itself would have to approve. It’s likely the federal government would have to be consulted as well.
As for a location, there’s no specific site plan right now but Herod thinks something close to the Colorado State Capitol would provide easy access to the many drug users who frequent the area.