Solve VT’s drug epidemic

Staff Editorial

Thanks to Sen. Dick Sears, a bill legalizing safe injection sites is off the table for 2018.

The bill would have legalized the creation of supervised spaces for people to legally use opioid drugs.

Vermont legislature’s decision to put the proposal off will result in overdose deaths.

The sites, which have been popular in European countries since 1986, are staffed by medical professionals who intervene if the drug user overdoses. The spaces offer clean needles and connect users with local recovery programs.

While Sears and his committee think about injection sites, Vermonters die. If 2018 is anything like 2016, 112 people will die from opioid-related drug overdoses in Vermont — but it’s clear that the drug problem is worsening.

Opioid-related deaths have risen nearly 130 percent since 2010. Within six months in 2016, the Vermont health department gave 4,000 doses of Narcan, an anti-overdose drug.

The battle against opioids is on our campus, too.

Last year, the Center for Health and Wellbeing announced Narcan would be available at Student Health Services on campus, no questions asked.

We understand the difference between offering anti-overdose drugs and legalizing illicit drug use in certain spaces. The latter is a lot more controversial.

For those saying spaces normalize drug use, we say that their effectiveness have been proven.

In a testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sarah Evans, former Vancouver-based injection site supervisor, said research shows no one has died from overdose at a safe injection site. Other opponents say that the sites only keep addicts alive.

A valid concern, but Evans said that users who came to her injection site were twice as likely to get into detox and rehab as those who didn’t.

And people who used the injection site were 35 percent less likely to die from an overdose. Because the Senate tabled the bill this year, that 35 percent won’t make it.

We call on the Senate to legalize a bill that would sustain human life while we work towards a long-term solution.