Identify key barriers and offer specific strategies to extend funding and advocate for their establishment
Washington, DC – AIDS United and Project Inform released a report today examining current efforts to bring Safer Consumption Spaces (SCS) – protected places used for the hygienic consumption of pre-obtained drugs in a non-judgmental environment and under the supervision of trained staff – to the United States. Research indicates that SCS are effective at reducing overdose fatalities, hospitalizations, infectious disease transmission, while also increasing initiation and retention in health care (which leads to better long-term substance use treatment outcomes). They are also cost effective.
There were an estimated 72,000 deaths attributed to overdose in the US in 2017. With widespread non-medical misuse of opioids and the subsequent increase in overdose, more attention and resources have been dedicated to combating these challenges than ever before. However, if the response is limited solely to traditional investments in treatment and law enforcement, it will ultimately fail to adequately address the complex health and psychosocial needs of people who inject drugs.
“A holistic, comprehensive approach to drug user health and prevention, which includes a spectrum of evidence-based prevention, treatment, and social services to maximize quality of life and health outcomes is necessary to combat the opioid, HIV, and viral hepatitis crises,” said Jesse Milan, Jr., president and CEO of AIDS United. “Yet our government response to date has lacked any significant investment in harm reduction. We are calling on private philanthropy to step in and support organizations working to implement and legalize these life-saving services.”
In researching the report, AIDS United and Project Inform conducted thirteen interviews with fifteen staff members and fifteen clients at twelve agencies that provide services to people who use drugs and/or advocate for safer consumption spaces, from seven regions of the U.S.
“There are no fully sanctioned safer consumption spaces in the United States, but people who inject drugs and their advocates are building a significant movement toward opening SCS in several U.S. cities and towns,” added David Evans, interim executive director at Project Inform. “Unfortunately, the federal government has a history of opposition to harm reduction, including to syringe services programs despite the mountain of evidence supporting their efficacy and refuting claims that they increase drug use. Already, the U.S. Department of Justice has made their opposition to safer consumption spaces clear, threatening legal action for jurisdictions that establish such a space.”
The report offers strategies for extending funding and advocating for legally sanctioned safer consumption spaces in a manner that focuses on the leadership and needs of people who use drugs.
Download Bringing Safer Consumption Spaces to the United States here.
About AIDS United:
AIDS United’s mission is to end the AIDS epidemic in the U.S. through strategic grant-making, capacity building, and policy. AIDS United works to ensure access to life-saving HIV/AIDS care and prevention services and to advance sound HIV/AIDS-related policy for U.S. populations and communities most impacted by the epidemic. To date, our strategic grant-making initiatives have directly funded more than $104 million to local communities and have leveraged more than $117 million in additional investments for programs that include, but are not limited to HIV prevention, access to care, capacity building, harm reduction and advocacy. www.aidsunited.org