SIFs May Work in Mass. but Federal Law is Impediment

Supervised injection facilities (SIFs) may be a way to drive down overdose deaths in the state, but the state’s Secretary of Health and Human Services says there may be a big roadblock to creating SIFs in Massachusetts – the federal government.

Secretary Marylou Sudders, appearing with Governor Charlie Baker on WGBH radio last Thursday to discuss the opioid crisis, said she believes SIFs could hold the potential for “harm reduction.”

But, she added, “The challenge is that it’s completely illegal federally ... so it's hard for me to sort of make the leap of how you actually do that in our state at this time. But I have not – this is my personal opinion – I have not dismissed it as something we may need to consider, particularly if we are in the midst of an opioid epidemic.”

The MHA Board of Trustees in May 2017 voted unanimously to advocate for the creation of SIFs, which are facilities where people can inject illicit drugs under the supervision of trained staff.  Currently, there are no legally authorized SIFs in the United States, but they currently exist in 10 countries (including Canada), with another country about to go live. Data from those facilities illustrates success in mortality prevention and enhanced participation in substance use disorder treatment. The Massachusetts Medical Society voted last April to endorse pursuing the creation of SIFs in Massachusetts. MHA’s Board voted to support the MMS proposal that calls for the creation of a pilot SIF under the direction and oversight of a state-led taskforce convened by a state authority, such as DPH.  MHA has also expressed its support for legislation (SB1081) filed by Sen. Will Brownsberger (D-Belmont) that would permit DPH to approve the implementation of safe injection facilities.