Somerville officials defending mayor’s plans for safe injection site

Somerville city councilors are defending Mayor Joe Curtatone’s plan to open a safe injection site in the city as soon as next year despite the threat of law enforcement action by the feds, while brushing off warnings that they’ll create a new Methadone Mile in their own city.

“I’ve established a working group to examine what it would take to open a supervised consumption site in Somerville,” Curtatone said in a statement. “We know there are legal issues. We know there are logistical issues. And we want to seek community input. Data shows that supervised consumption sites can save lives and that’s our goal here.”

He was not available for an interview.

“The opioid epidemic is a public health crisis that kills more than 100 people across the country each day and ignoring a harm reduction strategy simply because it may be difficult to implement only maintains that status quo,” Curtatone’s statement said. The Somerville mayor wants to open the site as soon as 2020, according to published reports.

But U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling warned that if Somerville opens a safe injection site, “federal enforcement will follow.”

“Opening a facility for people to inject themselves with heroin and fentanyl is illegal under federal and state law,” Lelling said in a statement.

Somerville City Councilor Mark Niedergang shot back, “If the federal government wants to come after us, they can come after us.”

“I feel that we cannot possibly be in a worse situation with drugs in America, I know countless people that have died from drug abuse in Somerville,” said City Councilor Matthew McLaughlin.

He and others reject Boston activist Domingos DaRosa’s warning that the site could create a situation like Boston’s Methadone Mile, around Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard, that includes both drug treatment centers and frequent illegal drug activity. A corrections officer was recently attacked there, prompting a public meeting where residents voiced frustration over rampant drug use and crime.

“I think Methadone Mile — that’s not a good example because they aren’t doing safe injections sites down there … people just gather to do drugs and people are going to do that anywhere,” McLaughlin said.

City Councilor Jesse Clingan said a safe injection site can be a starting point toward addiction treatment.

“Everybody is on the same page that something needs to be done to save lives and this is just one tool in the toolbox,” said Clingan. “I don’t think it will be people hanging around, I don’t think it will be like that situation over in Boston.”

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Source:: Boston Herald

      

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