The real story about Supervised Consumption Facilities for drugs

Print More

Photo by kevinkarnsfamily with Flickr Creative Commons License

By Del. Dan Morhaim

The article by Brian Griffths of Red Maryland linked to in Monday’s State Roundup about SB288/HB326 has numerous flaws and inaccurate statements.

First, I hope we can agree that the opioid crisis is real, that we are opposed to substance abuse, and that these problems needs to be addressed in every way possible, especially by those that are evidence-based. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.

Each substance abuser has unique circumstances, and that’s why I support every proven method including long-term treatment, faith-based treatment, medication-assisted treatment, support groups like Narcotics or Alcoholic Anonymous, Crisis Stabilization Centers, and others.

Supervised Consumption Facilities (SCF) are proven effective in reducing drug use, reducing disease, reducing discarded needles, reducing crime, and getting people into treatment. Equally important, there have been no overdose deaths in any of the facilities in operation because a trained rescuer is present at all times.

A report from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health documents this.

The legislation specifically states that SCF are not allowed in areas zoned residential. The implication that these will be located in neighborhoods is completely inaccurate.

No opposition

During both bill hearings, there was no opposition, written or in person. Law enforcement did not oppose, nor did any branch of local or state government. Every addiction advocacy group supported the bill as did Med-Chi, the Maryland State Medical Society. That’s because they see this bill for what it is: a proven public health approach to a crisis.

The bill does not “empower the state” to set up SCF. These facilities would be set up by Community Based Organizations, a long-standing and well-defined term in Maryland law. The state, coordinating with local government, would insure that safety and operational standards are met.

SCF would not operate at “taxpayer expense,” another false statement in Griffths’ article. It would be up to the Community Based Organizations to arrange funding.

He writes that people will “shoot up heroin in your community”. Unfortunately, they are doing that already.

The problem is that they are shooting up in back alleys, home bedrooms, public and private bathrooms, and other places where they are alone and overdose and die. In SCF, the substance abuser can be saved and also directed to treatment. Again, no overdose deaths in SCF.

Last, my interest in this is purely human and is driven by what I’ve seen as a practicing emergency medicine physician. I first introduced legislation on this topic in 1998 (HB149 – enacted), and that bill increased funding for addiction treatment.

This was long before this issue was getting much attention, and had more of its provisions been adopted, we might not be in the mess we are in today. Griffths’ insinuation of “financial interest” is completely baseless, as I have none and will never have any.

Dr. Dan Morhaim has been a member of the House of Delegates since 1995.