MGH Offers Glimpse of What a Safe Injection Site Would Look Like

This week, the public can get a rare glimpse into what a safe injection site would look like if they were open in Massachusetts.

Advocates have set up a mock site at the Massachusetts General Hospital Charlestown Health Center as they look to raise awareness about the idea to combat the opioid crisis.

Dr. Mark Eisenberg, a physician and addiction specialist at MGH Charlestown, is behind the mock site. He became passionate after personally losing dozens of patients to addiction. He also visited the facilities in Canada, where the country has seen a reduction of overdose deaths and an increase in patients seeking treatment.

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"This isn't going to be the solution to our opioid and overdose crisis. It's a little tool in the box," Eisenberg said. "It allows us to keep them safe and alive as we try to get them help."

The site would not provide the drugs, but would include tourniquets, syringes and other sterile equipment that would help prevent a user from contracting an infection. Narcan and oxygen would be also on hand in case of an emergency, and medical professionals would monitor the usage. At the mock site, no drugs are being injected.

Advocates have faced push-back from Gov. Charlie Baker and U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling, who have said the facilities violate federal law. However, a recent legal win could pave the way for the first one in the nation in Philadelphia.

Parents Cheryl Juaire and Lynn Wencus have both lost sons to addiction. They showed up to the mock site to advocate for others.

"I would have driven my son myself," Juaire said. "I was against it, but then I opened my eyes."

Juaire and Wencus also plan on speaking at hearing at the state house on the topic next week.

"We need to do something different, innovative, and again, it's about saving a life," Wencus said.

The mock safe injection site will be open to the public at MGH Charlestown, located at 73 High St. in Boston, from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 16, 17 and 18. There is also a panel discussion happening on Thursday, Oct. 17 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

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