WASHINGTON - More than 200 people died in the District last year from opioid overdoses, which is a 160 percent increase from two years before. D.C. leaders say drastic measures are needed to stop overdoses, and some are considering a plan that may surprise you.
City lawmakers are currently looking into a plan to open up so-called “injection sites” – places where addicts can go to take their drugs with medical professionals nearby who can also help them get clean.
But some wonder if this would save lives or enable the problem.
District leaders say opioid overdoes are skyrocketing and there is no time to wait.
“I can liken it to the HIV/AIDS crisis that occurred some 30 years ago,” said D.C. Councilmember Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7).
Fellow Councilmember David Grosso (I-At-large) is asking the director of the District’s Department of Health to look at this controversial practice.
“You can have on site the services that people need in order to recover from addiction,” Grosso said. “You can have counselors, you can have health care professionals there to actually work with people to get them through their addiction.”
Mayor Muriel Bowser is not endorsing the plan yet, but she is sending her health director to Canada to see firsthand how this works, and will report back to the council and mayor.
“We are always looking for a way to keep D.C. residents alive,” said Bowser.
Leaders are just exploring the practice currently. There is no estimate on the cost, the number of injection sites or if the city could be held liable. Some leaders want to hear much more before they support this.
“I am assuming that the goal is to save lives,” said Councilmember Anita Bonds (D-At-large). “Is this something that you want modern society to be involved with?”
Many are comparing this proposal to the city's Needle Exchange Program. It was very controversial when the District gave out clean needles to drug users to stop the transmission of HIV and AIDS. But that program proved to be very successful in lowering transmission rates.