Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone says the city is going ahead with plans to open a supervised injection site for drug users in the city sometime next year.
This despite a promise by the state's top federal prosecutor to block any safe injection site from operating in Massachusetts.
Opening a clinic where health care professionals can monitor drug use and potentially steer addicts into treatment would save lives, Curtatone told WBUR-FM. The mayor noted he attended a funeral on Monday for a person who died as a result of the opioid epidemic.
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"The death toll in this opioids epidemic is too high for us to continue to act like the status quo has any chance of fixing it," Curtatone wrote on Facebook. "Supervised consumption sites may offend the War on Drugs mentality of some federal officials, but that mentality has done nothing but make this plague of addiction worse. These are our family and friends."
He added that the city has decided "to keep people alive" rather than "posture while the body count rises."
U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said that barring a change of position by the Justice Department, the federal government would enforce the law should Somerville go ahead with its plans.
"Opening a facility for people to inject themselves with heroin and fentanyl is illegal under federal and state law. Barring a change in the Justice Department's position, if Somerville opens one, federal enforcement will follow," he said in a statement, citing a death at a site in Canada last year.
Republican Gov. Charlie Baker also opposes supervised injection sites.
"I understand where they're coming from, but I don't think the residents are going to like it," said resident Ray Davanzo.
"I personally think that it's a great idea, simply because drug abuse is a disease, and it shouldn't be treated as a crime," said resident Kyle Langley.
"With the amount of people that are dying out here from overdosing, a safe place for people to inject," said Peter Shumski, who works in Somerville. "I mean, I'm against it, but at the same time, if it's going to save lives, we've got too many young people dying right now."
Philadelphia has been pushing to become the first U.S. city offering a safe injection site. It has the highest opioid rate of any large American city.