The Costs and Benefits of a Supervised Use Site in Denver, Colorado

Produced in collaboration with Colorado Fiscal Institute, Law Enforcement Action Partnership and Harm Reduction Action Center, this report marshals the best available data from Denver and from existing facilities in Canada and Europe to analyze the cost effectiveness of a prospective supervised use site in Denver. 

Facilities providing supervised consumption services (SCS) are legally sanctioned to allow people to consume pre-obtained drugs under the supervision of trained staff while providing access to sterile equipment, health care, counseling, and referrals to medical and social services, including drug treatment. Such facilities are also referred to as supervised use sites (SUS), the terminology adopted most commonly in Denver, as well as overdose prevention centers, safe or supervised injection facilities (SIFs) and drug consumptions rooms (DCRs). 

Report findings include:

  • A full capacity SUS in Denver could generate $8.6 million in health benefits for a total cost of under $1.8 million, yielding a cost-benefit ratio of $4.89 saved for every dollar spent.
  • The net savings associated with a full capacity SUS in Denver is projected to be $6.9 million per year.
  • Health benefits and associated fiscal savings projected for a Denver-based SUS include:
    • $300,000 in savings through HIV prevention
    • $3.8 million in annual savings through HCV prevention 
    • $2.8 million in annual savings through SSTI prevention
    • Multiple lives saved and reduced ambulance, emergency room and hospital costs through overdose prevention
    • $320,000 in reduced annual drug-related health care and crime costs

Recent cost-benefit analyses have reached similar conclusions in San Francisco and Baltimore.

There are approximately 120 SCS facilities currently operating in twelve countries around the world including Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Switzerland. Over 100 evidence-based, peer-reviewed studies have consistently proven the positive impacts of supervised consumption services, including increasing entry into substance use disorder treatment, reducing public disorder and public injecting, reducing HIV and Hepatitis C risk behavior, and saving costs due to a reduction in disease, overdose deaths, and need for emergency medical services.

Harm Reduction
Supervised Consumption Services