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Colorado Lawmakers Reject Harm Reduction Bill – What’s Next?

Posted: February 22, 2018 at 10:14 am by , in Breaking News, Featured, Morning Magazine

“I can’t have anybody else die of overdose. We are all done with that. So I’m trying to push forward for a healthier and safer community…”– Lisa Raville, The Harm Reduction Action Center.
Colorado lawmakers are considering a slew of bills in this legislative session, aimed at tackling the opioid epidemic.
The bills range in scope from restricting the number of opioid pills that could be prescribed, to funding more treatment and recovery resources. One bill though has proven to be controversial.

SB18-040: Substance Use Disorder Harm Reduction Bill called for creating  a supervised injection facility pilot program, where injection drug users could shoot up using clean needles under the supervision of trained staff who could intervene in case of an overdose.

Such sites exist in Canada, Australia and Europe, but the idea of supervised use sites has proven to be a step too far for Colorado lawmakers.

The bill died in Committee on Wednesday, February 14th, but those who work with intravenous drug users have not lost hope that one day users will have a safer way to inject in the presence of medical staff.

The Executive Director of the Harm Reduction Action Center, Lisa Raville, told KGNU’s Emma Gibson that she and the center are disappointed the bill died.

“However, we feel very very  energized by all the folks that came out in support. There were over 25 people that testified in support for the supervised-use site bill and only one person in opposition. We had business leaders, the Attorney General’s office, moms, drug users, people in recovery, the treatment community, the faith community, they all came together and said, “We need a supervised-use site in our community for a healthier and safer Colorado.”

Raville said that they will try to get another bill in during this session, because “delays mean deaths.”

Without the supervised-use site, there are still agencies around Colorado helping intravenous drug users stay safe and healthy. There are nine syringe access programs, 430 pharmacies sell Naloxone–a drug that can bring someone back from an opioid overdose–as an over-the-counter drug, and 158 law enforcement agencies carry Naloxone throughout Colorado.

“I think we can all agree that if stigma, shame and incarceration worked with drug use, we’d have wrapped this up years ago. All it’s done is drive use underground where people have gotten preventable, chronic diseases, such as HIV, Hepatitis C and died of overdose, so we’re doing something different. I can’t have anybody else die of overdose. We are all done with that. So I’m trying to push forward for a healthier and safer community, by pushing forward with the supervised-use site.”

The Harm Reduction Bill was rejected along a party line vote with all Republicans on the committee voting against it.

San Francisco and Seattle are trying to  establish their own supervised injection sites.