Cities pushing for safe injection sites face federal pushback

The U.S. Department of Justice plans to crack down on U.S. cities that are considering opening medically-supervised drug injection sites to curb increasing rates of fatal drug overdoses, according to NPR.

Here are four things to know:

1. U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told the publication he understands city leaders' desperation to address the opioid epidemic but said providing a place for individuals to take illegal substances violates federal law.

"If you open one, prepare for swift and aggressive legal action," he he told NPR in an interview. "I'm not aware of any valid basis for the argument that you can engage in criminal activity as long as you do it in the presence of someone with a medical condition."

2. Despite legal threats, city officials in Philadelphia and San Francisco are progressing with plans to create injection sites. In California, state lawmakers passed a bill, awaiting the governor's approval, to advance a three-year, supervised injection pilot program.

"There is strength in numbers," San Francisco Mayor London Breed said during a press conference, according to NPR.  "And we are talking to other cities who want to consider this as an option. I mean, here in other cities like New York and Seattle, we are trying to address the crisis."

3. Research on medically-supervised injection sites is still preliminary. However, some studies show these sites can decrease fatal drug overdoses do decrease. The American Medical Association also endorses launching supervised injection pilot sites.

4. Mr. Rosenstein urges mayors and other city officials to consult their lawyers about the legal repercussions of opening a safe infection site.

"Just because someone tells you in San Francisco that San Francisco is not going to prosecute you for doing something, that does not make it legal. It remains illegal after federal law," Mr. Rosenstein told NPR. "If anybody thinks this is a good idea, there's a way to accomplish that: try to persuade the U.S. Congress to legalize it."

More articles on opioids: 

4 things to know about the Senate opioid bill

Drug companies race to make opioid alternatives: 4 things to know

Michigan Medicine agrees to $4.3M settlement over drug diversion case

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