Supervised Consumption Services: The Next Step for Public Health-Based Drug Policy in Colorado

Supervised consumption services (SCS), also known as supervised use sites (SUS), overdose prevention centers, safe or supervised injection facilities (SIFs), and drug consumption rooms (DCRs), are legally sanctioned facilities designed to reduce the health and public order issues often associated with public injection.

SCS provide a space for people to consume pre-obtained drugs in controlled settings under the supervision of trained staff and with access to sterile injecting equipment. Participants can also receive health care, counseling, and referrals to health and social services, including drug treatment.

Why SCS?

SCS are intended to complement – not replace – existing prevention, harm reduction and treatment interventions as part of a comprehensive public health approach to overdose and other negative consequences of problematic drug use.

Over 100 such programs are already operating successfully around the world while advocacy continues to establish these essential public health services in the United States. Statewide efforts are currently gaining momentum in New York and California in addition to local plans evolving in cities like Seattle, San Francisco, IthacaBaltimore, New York City and Philadelphia.

As shown in recent cost-benefit analyses on prospective SCS in San FranciscoBaltimore, and, most recently, Denver, they are extremely cost effective and can generate millions of dollars in annual savings. Evidence shows they improve access to drug treatment and other needed services while reducing the risk of disease transmission and skin and soft tissue infections, preventing overdose deaths, and providing alternatives to public injecting and improper syringe disposal. That is why a growing body of public health experts and medical professionals, including the American Medical Association, support the establishment of these facilities in the United States.

Learn more about how SCS/SUS/SIFs help reduce the harms associated with drug use in this video from Luceo.

Colorado Urgently Needs SCS

Colorado has made strides in improving harm reduction services like sterile syringe access and naloxone availability, but our communities still experience far too many needless overdose deaths. Multiple counties in Colorado, including Denver, have had overdose rates among the highest in the nation. Public injecting is also an ongoing concern. Just in Denver in 2018 alone, at least 25 people passed away from overdose in public locations such as parks, alleys, parking lots, and business restrooms. These deaths were unnecessary and preventable.

It is time for Colorado to take the next step in public health-based drug policy by establishing SCS/SUS/SIFs.

Donald Stader quote

Along with our friends at the Harm Reduction Action Center, Drug Policy Alliance believes that SCS are urgently needed in Colorado. In November of 2018, Denver City Council passed an ordinance authorizing establishment of a supervised use site pilot program contingent upon approval of corresponding legislation that is pending introduction in the General Assembly. The coalition to establish a supervised use site in Denver is publicly supported by over fifty local businesses and officially endorsed by over fifty medical, public health, social service and faith organizations.

Additional Resources

Supervised Consumption Services