A report recently published by the Abell Foundation, the researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School suggest opening two facilities, one on the east side and the another on the west, for addicts to use drugs. While this is an unorthodox way of dealing with the statewide heroin epidemic, it would prevent the harms that addicts face and overdose fatalities.
These “safe-drug consumption spaces” are gaining traction nationwide, because they have shown to be effective in helping to stop overdose deaths. According to the report, there are currently 97 safe spaces located in 66 cities and 11 countries.
There are an estimated 19,000 people, who inject drugs in Baltimore alone. There were 481 fatal overdose deaths reported during the first nine months of 2016. When compared to the same period the year before, a 65 percent increase was noted.
The report’s lead author, a professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Health Behavior and Society, Susan Sherman, said, “It is a public health emergency and we need ever single evidence-based tool that is at our disposal.”
However, Sherman did acknowledge the legal hurdles and critics that found the idea unwelcoming. One critic said the government should focus its efforts on opening more treatment facilities.
Former director of the Baltimore County Office, Mike Gimbel, said, “The government should be spending our resources on helping people get off drugs, not helping them get high.” He we on to say that many addicts get high several times a day and would find the travel to the center inconvenient. There are also the lingering fears that the police are always watching.
Under the Maryland criminal code and federal law, it is illegal to possess controlled drugs, so people in safe spaces could be arrested, if they are using illegal drugs. Individuals working and running the facilities could also be open to criminal charges.
Leana Wen, Baltimore Health Commissioner, said, breaking the federal law could endanger any federal funding the city receives. She went on to say that the safe space is a model the city could explore, but the federal government would have to approve the idea, before it could move forward.
“Instead of concentrating on methods to provide adequate drug rehab programs, especially supporting and expanding access to faith-based programs that work for those afflicted with scourge of illegal drug addiction, this study suggests that essentially legalizing heroin dens and crack houses in Baltimore is the answer, “Republican, a Maryland Republican, said in a statement.
“The real answer lies in improving our education system, providing job opportunities in a growing economy, and, most importantly, making sure that we have adequate treatment programs to accommodate the growing number of addicts, and bringing these addicts into those programs through the justice system if necessary,” he said.