Supervised consumption services (SCS) are legally sanctioned facilities designed to reduce the health and public order issues often associated with public injection. They are also called safer injection facilities (SIFs) or overdose prevention centers.
These facilities 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.
SCS can play a vital role as part of a larger public health approach to drug policy. SCS are intended to complement – not replace – existing prevention, harm reduction and treatment interventions.
- There are approximately 120 SCS currently operating in over 10 countries around the world (Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Switzerland) – but none in the U.S. July 2021 Update: Rhode Island became the first state in the nation to authorize a two-year pilot program to establish "harm reduction centers" where people can consume pre-obtained substances under the supervision of trained staff.
- There are plans for the opening of SCS in Portugal, Belgium, Ireland and the UK. In the United States, Seattle, San Francisco, Philadelphia and New York City have committed to opening sites, but none are in operation yet.
- Numerous evidence-based, peer-reviewed studies have proven the positive impacts of supervised injection services, including:
- Increasing use of substance use disorder treatment, especially among people who distrust the treatment system and are unlikely to seek treatment on their own
- Reducing public disorder, reducing public injecting, and increasing public safety
- Attracting and retaining a population of people who inject drugs and are at a high risk for infectious disease and overdose
- Reducing HIV and hepatitis C risk behavior (i.e. syringe sharing, unsafe sex)
- Reducing the prevalence and harms of bacterial infections
- Successfully managing hundreds of overdoses and reducing drug-related overdose death rates
- Saving costs due to a reduction in disease, overdose deaths, and need for emergency medical services
- Providing safer injection education, subsequently increasing safer injecting practices
- Increasing the delivery of medical and social services
- In areas surrounding existing SCS, there has been no evidence of increased community drug use, initiation of injection drug use, or drug-related crime.
SCS are a vital part of a comprehensive public health approach to reducing the harms of drug misuse. Local, state and national governments should explore the implementation of legal SCS (at least at the pilot level) staffed with trained professionals to reduce overdose deaths, increase access to health services and further expand access to safer injection equipment to prevent the transmission of HIV and Hepatitis C.
DPA supports the efforts of local communities in the U.S. to pursue SCS programs.