Boston Mayor ‘Impressed’ by Safe Injection Sites, Supports More Education on the Harm Reduction Model

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh plans to speak more about the good that safe injection sites can have on preventing overdose deaths and reducing harm for drug users after his recent visit to Canada where such programs were front and center.

Walsh traveled to Toronto and Montreal this past weekend. He was joined by Chief of Health and Human Services Marty Martinez, Director of the Office of Recovery Services Jennifer Tracey, and Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission Monica Valdes Lupi. The group met with Cambridge Mayor Marc McGovern for part of the trip, who brought with him several members of the Cambridge City Manager’s Opioid Working Group. Both mayors are part of the Massachusetts Harm Reduction Commission.

Walsh said despite initial fears that people may have about safe consumption sites, which allow people to inject drugs under the supervision of hospital staff and counselors, he was pretty impressed with what he witnessed.

“You can’t speak against them. There’s something there and it’s something that I’m going to talk more about as I get a chance to debrief with the team that went with me and then start having conversations,” Walsh said. “I think before we all start having the debate whether or not we should have them or not have them I think we have to have a process of educating people of what they are.”

At the very least, Walsh said, the city as a whole needs to do more on harm reduction, which could include more needle exchange programs throughout the city and beyond before exploring the complexities associated with opening a safe injection site.

Complexities include state, federal and nonprofit funding along with the legalities of using illegal drugs.

“These facilities didn’t happen over night,” the mayor said. “There’s a process we have to go through and a modeling, we have to see how it would be.”

Jordan Frias

Jordan Frias is an editorial assistant at Boston Herald and a contributor of Spare Change News. He is vice president of the New England Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and a graduate of Northeastern University's School of Journalism.