There has been 216 deaths due to drug overdoses and that number has more than doubled in D.C. in two years.
As local politicians consider ways to deal with that rising death toll, there’s one option the city hasn’t tried yet: giving people a clean and comfortable place to do their drugs.
There's a lot of evidence to show it actually works.
D.C. Councilmember David Grosso wants the city to consider such a facility for the District.
“It is controversial, but I ask people again to just stop for one minute and look and see what we’ve been doing and ask if that’s worked or not? And clearly it’s not working,” said Grosso.
Controversial- yes. But not new.
Susan Sherman is a professor of health behavior and society at John Hopkins University. She said the first facility of its kind opened in Bern, Switzerland in 1989.
There’s more than a hundred, in 60 cities around the world. In Vancouver, Canada, a facility has been operating for nearly fifteen years.
“And there’s never been a death from an overdose. Ever. In the history of thirty plus years,” she said.
Inside, the sites look more like a clinic than a crack house.
People bring their own drugs. They have access to clean needles and sterile equipment.
Medical staff are on hand in case of emergency.
If users decide they want to get clean, help is available.
What’s more, Sherman found the sites actually save money in healthcare costs.
“Nine-one-one calls and ambulances, from hospital stays and infections, from averted HIV cases, Hepatitis C cases, and fatal overdose cases: so something that cost a million dollars had 6 million dollars saving," she said.
Councilmember Grosso says the bottom line is “maybe we’ll save someone’s life. I think that has to be paramount and part of the discussion.”
There are currently no safe injection sites in the U.S.
Officials with D.C.’s Department of Health are planning to visit Vancouver’s Insite facility and report back to council next month.