Will Rhode Island Be the First State to Legalize Safe Consumption Sites?

“People who use controlled substances are members of our community,” wrote Bella Robinson, a sex worker activist and executive director of the local sex worker rights group, COYOTE RI. “We don’t want to see them to be arrested, and we don’t want them to die from an overdose”

The prospect of safe consumption sites (SCS) for mitigating the United States’ historic overdose death toll has long been delayed by the federal obstruction of a Philadelphia-based organization’s bid to open the first sanctioned site. Now, hope may be found a few states over: Rhode Island, where residents are witnessing an exacerbated fatal overdose crisis amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

A bill to authorize the creation of SCS, or what the lawmakers are calling “Harm Reduction Centers,” has returned to the state’s General Assembly after first being introduced in 2019. This time, “there’s really been strong support,” Haley McKee, co-chair of the Substance Use Policy, Education, & Recovery PAC and a lobbyist in support of the newly reintroduced H 5245 and S 0016, told Filter. “I’ve seen a lot more involvement of people with lived or professional expertise.”

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