1,062 people died of overdose just in Colorado in 2019, the most ever Colorado has ever seen … again. 213 drug related deaths, just in Denver. Fentanyl-related overdose deaths are up a staggering 282% in Denver from January of this year to May.
Stimulant overdoses are on the rise, as seen in 2018, which was the second year where there were more deaths associated with methamphetamine than heroin. To make the issue more daunting, early data suggests 2020 will be worse than any other recorded year.
Supervised use sites bridge the gap between people who inject drugs and public health interventions that are proven to reduce the spread of HIV and viral hepatitis while also preventing fatal overdoses. In fact, of 150 SUS currently operating in 11 countries around the globe, not one has reported a single fatal overdose on its premises.
The number of people who have died from overdose to continue to increase, all the while deeply effecting communities, especially businesses. Executive Director Lisa Raville explains, “We want to make sure that our folks get factual, correct health information and have a safe space. We want to make sure that they are not dying in business bathrooms and someone who makes minimum wage who is just trying to clean the bathroom before their shift is over isn’t finding a dead body, and that is exactly what is happening in our community. Not only is that very traumatizing for mothers and family members and people who love the person who died of an overdose in that bathroom, it is incredibly traumatizing for someone who has to work there every day and relive that.”
What does this mean to our business community? Denver currently lacks proper public health interventions to significantly reduce rates of public injection, something many businesses experience in the form of people utilizing public bathrooms to inject as well as open injecting in common spaces such as parks, sidewalks, and alleyways. These venues are neither sterile nor safe and, sadly, are often the very places where people, without proper supervision or intervention, die of overdose.
A Denver supervised use site would significantly impact rates of public injection and would serve to help connect our marginalized citizens to evidence-based healthcare and support. Numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies have proven the positive impacts of Supervised Use Sites.
These benefits include:
- Increased access to drug treatment, especially among people who distrust the treatment system and are unlikely to seek treatment on their own.
- Reduced public disorder, reduced public injecting, and increased public safety.
- Attracting and retaining a high risk population of people who inject drugs, who are at heightened risk for infectious disease and overdose.
- Reduced HIV and Hepatitis C risk behavior (e.g. syringe and other injection equipment sharing, unsafe sex).
- Reducing the prevalence and harms of bacterial infections (e.g. staph infection, endocarditis).
- Successfully managing overdoses and reducing overdose death rates.
- Cost savings resulting from reduced disease, overdoses, and need for emergency medical services, and increased preventive healthcare and drug treatment utilization.
- Not increasing community drug use.
- Not increasing initiation into injection drug use.
- Not increasing drug-related crime.
In short, a supervised use site is beneficial to both businesses and the community at large, as it would help direct people who inject drugs from parks, business bathrooms, and alleys and into a controlled, private, staffed, and medical environment. Our Executive Director presented to 2,800 Denverites in 2018 about how this evidence-based initiative is just what Denver needs for people who use drugs, businesses, organizations, and the larger community.
How can you help?
Sign our pledge to support an evidence-based intervention to prevent disease and death in a manner that meets the needs of our citizens and our community’s businesses.
Support the opening of a supervised use site in Denver for a healthier and safer community. In November 2018, Denver City Council passed an ordinance that can go into effect with Statewide Legislation. We ask the state of Colorado to take all necessary steps to authorize and establish supervised use site as a public health intervention to reduce overdose deaths, HIV and viral hepatitis transmission, increase public safety, while promoting access to drug treatment and other supportive care.