BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health recommend that Baltimore turn to an unorthodox way of dealing with its heroin epidemic by opening two facilities that provide people a safe place to do drugs, according to the Baltimore Sun.
In a report published and by the nonprofit Abell Foundation, the researchers suggest opening one facility each on the city’s east and west sides. They say such facilities would prevent overdose deaths and other harms that addicts face.
Researchers said such facilities have helped stop deaths in other countries. There are 97 safe spaces in 66 cities and 11 countries, according to the report.
In Baltimore City, about 19,000 people inject drugs, and there were 481 fatal overdose deaths during the first nine months of 2016, a 65 percent increase over the same period the year before, the Sun reports.
It is illegal under federal law and the Maryland criminal code to possess controlled substances, so anybody that used the safe spaces to use illegal drugs could be arrested. People who work and run the facilities could be open to criminal charges too.
Legislation pending in the General Assembly would allow for the creation of such sites, but it is unclear if it will pass this legislative session.
Several cities are actively looking at opening safe spaces, according to the Abell Foundation report, including New York; Ithaca, N.Y.; Seattle and San Francisco. Last month the King County Board of Health voted to open two facilities — one in Seattle and another in a surrounding county.
The report found that Vancouver saw a 35 percent reduction in overdose events around one of its safe consumption spaces compared with the city as a whole. Sydney, Australia, saw a 68 percent reduction in ambulance calls in the vicinity of its safe space.
The report sites in Vancouver, 57 percent of people who inject drugs at one safe site started addiction treatment, and 23 percent stopped injecting drugs altogether.