BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Reducing overdoses by creating safe spaces for people to take drugs is an initiative under consideration in Maryland and other states.

A panel of law enforcement and public health advocates presented a report to a joint legislative committee of the Maryland General Assembly that concluded Baltimore could benefit from a safe consumption space.

There is a facility in Canada that is used as a model, and similar programs in countries around the world. The safe consumption spaces allow drug users to inject, snort or smoke drugs while being monitored to prevent overdoses and death.

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Dr. Susan Sherman, a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, is an advocate.

“I will say that of the millions and millions of injections from the past 30 years that have occurred in safe consumption spaces around the world, there’s never been one fatal overdose,” she told WJZ.

But it may be a hard sell in Maryland.

“It’s a hard pill to swallow, so to speak,” she said, “Although there are cities — like San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Philadelphia, Albany and Denver — that are considering and are much further along than we are legislatively in implementing safe consumption or supervised injection facilities, but we’re not there in Baltimore yet,” Sherman said.

Former baltimore mayor kurt schmoke talked to WJZ’s Vic Carter about being heavily criticized for his effort to shift focus on drugs from crime to public health.

“We needed a war on drugs but it needed to be led by the surgeon general, not the attorney general,” Schmoke said. “I think one of the reasons elected officials now are comfortable talking about it is because everyone sees the problem affecting all walks of life. It is not limited to poor people in the inner city. It is all over.”

Dr. Sherman told WJZ that for Baltimore, not only legislators but users too need to be convinced.

“There’s really a lack of trust that things like this will actually benefit people, that you could actually go into a space and you’re not going to be arrested,” she said.

Cities in 12 countries around the world have safe spaces.

 

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