RTI International and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Researchers Collaborate on Study of Early Policies to Establish Sanctioned Safe Consumption Sites in the U.S.

February 13, 2019

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — RTI International, a nonprofit research institute, collaborated with researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health on a new paper “Establishing Sanctioned Safe Consumption Sites in the U.S.: Five Jurisdictions Moving the Policy Agenda Forward” published in the February edition of Psychiatric Services. RTI Distinguished Fellow Alex Kral, PhD, co-authored the study examining early U.S. efforts to advance policies to establish safe consumption sites.

“The U.S. overdose crisis, fueled by opioids, fentanyl and heroin, is showing no signs of slowing down,” said Dr. Kral. “There is a lot of momentum with a handful of U.S. cities planning to implement safe consumption sites to stem this overdose crisis. It is important to understand how these communities have managed to successfully engage with the broader conversation about this impending drug policy.”

The paper listed a few key strategies and players who have been instrumental in moving the policy agenda forward, including supporting allies in related causes and involving people who use drugs. The paper also mentioned the challenges of identifying the right locations, uncertainty about the federal response, and mistrust given the broader context of racial injustice in U.S. drug policy and financing.

More than 120 sanctioned safe consumption sites exist in cities in Canada, Australia, Mexico, and Europe, but sites are currently unsanctioned in the U.S. Research shows that safe consumption sites provide people who use drugs with potentially life-saving benefits and lessen the negative impacts of them using drugs in the surrounding community. Advocates of safe consumption sites view it as a potential strategy to shift the drug policy paradigm away from criminalization and toward interventions.

RTI frequently partners with researchers from other universities and organizations to conduct research that helps policymakers make informed decisions. To see Johns Hopkin Bloomberg School of Public Health’s press release on this paper, click here.