A statewide tour to raise awareness and provide education about safe injection sites will make a stop in Buffalo Tuesday, May 3. It's sponsored locally by Evergreen Health, a health service provider that covers many areas including HIV, sexual health and substance user health.
There will be an exhibit in Lafayette Square from 1:00-5:00 P.M. which will show people what safe injection facilities look like and how they operate. A film will be screened at Hotel Lafayette from 6:00-8:00 P.M.
Injection sites are safe, clean locations where drug users can administer drugs to themselves with health professionals nearby.
"It's a way to decrease disease transmissions, decrease fatal overdoses, decrease avoidable hospital visits," Emma Fabian, director of substance user health policy at Evergreen, explained.
It's a non-traditional method that focuses on harm reduction. The goal is to keep addicts alive long enough for them to become prepared to seek out treatment.
"We need to be willing to step back and look at the evidence and think about new programs that may have a role in reducing those overdoses," Evergreen's associate VP of behavior health Josh McClain said.
The group doesn't have any plans to open an injection site in Buffalo anytime soon. State and federal laws still make it illegal. But it is hoping to spark a larger conversation in the community about this strategy.
Horizon Health Services President Anne Constantino said she'd like to know more about these facilities and still has a lot of questions, but nothing should be ruled out in the fight against drug addiction.
"I'm of the thought that we should vet every single possible solution to save lives," she said. "The longer we keep people alive the more opportunity they have for recovery."
Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein has some reservations about safe injection sites and says while they're still illegal, trying to open one could be a waste of valuable dollars. But she thinks opening a public dialogue about the topic would be a good thing.
"I think we need more data. I don't think the jury is out yet," she said. "We need some more long-term data, follow ups, see what happens to those individuals that utilize those services. What is their outcome?"
NYS Senator Tim Kennedy provided the following statement regarding safe injection facilities:
"I continue to have conversations with medical professionals, drug treatment experts, and families who have lost ones to the opioid and heroin epidemic to get their feedback about safe injection sites. While this idea merits a greater discussion, I firmly believe that first and foremost we need to ensure that we're providing sufficient funding to prevention and education resources, as well as treatment programs."