Baker, Essaibi-George seek hearing on 'supervised injection sites'

Two Boston city councillors from Dorchester are calling for a hearing on the potential impacts of supervised injection sites in the city as the controversial idea gains mainstream attention in Massachusetts.

Councillors Annissa Essaibi-George and Frank Baker have requested that the City Council hold a hearing to consider what such sites — places where addicts can inject drugs they obtain elsewhere while under supervision —would mean for public health and public safety in Boston.

"Boston needs to be front and center in the conversation about safe injection sites," Essaibi-George, an at-large councillor, said in a statement. "Research shows that there are definitely some positive outcomes for facilities like this, especially in reducing overdose deaths."

The American Journal of Public Health said supervised injection facilities are "a place supervised by licensed health personnel where (people) inject drugs they obtain elsewhere. Facility staff do not directly assist in injection, but provide sterile injection supplies, answer questions on vein care and safer injection methods, administer first aid, and monitor for overdose."

There are about 100 supervised injection sites in nine countries, including Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Australia and Canada, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.

Though there are no supervised injection sites in America, the idea has gained mainstream attention as the number of people dying from drug overdoses grows and the public health ramifications of rampant addiction spread. In April, the Massachusetts Medical Society began to lobby state and federal lawmakers to pilot a first-in-the-nation state-run safe injection site program in Massachusetts and last month the Massachusetts Senate adopted an amendment directing the Department of Public Health to study supervised injection sites.

On WGBH Tuesday, Senate President Stanley Rosenberg said injection sites have been successful in other countries."People need to get their head around it," he said. "I'm open-minded but I'm skeptical at this point."

The request for a hearing is scheduled to be considered Wednesday by the City Council.