Yesterday, OSI grantees including the Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition, BMORE Power, and Charm City Care Connection joined Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and City Council President Brandon Scott at an event to encourage city and state officials to further pursue Overdose Prevention Sites (SPSs) in Baltimore City. At SIFs, drug users can use drugs in the presence of medical professionals to ensure they don’t overdose and get access to treatment if they want it. There are SIFs all over the world, including one in Vancouver, Canada, and in the millions of injections that have taken place in them, there has never been an overdose.
In his recent Baltimore Sun op-ed promoting SIFs and other harm reduction approaches to overdose and addiction, Scott Nolen, director of OSI’s Addiction and Health Equity, noted that there were 888 needless overdose deaths last year in Baltimore City alone, and 72,000 nationally. “As the body count rises year after year, the official response has been lethargic at best, and at worst, openly hostile to strategies that have proven remarkably successful,” he wrote. “OSI-Baltimore has been urging city leaders to explore the possibility of opening SIFs, also called safe consumption spaces, in Baltimore for several years.”
Rajani Gudlavalleti, a former OSI-Baltimore staff member, is now community organizing manager for the Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition, which is part of the OSI-funded Bridges Coalition that leads the charge to promote SIFs and other harm reduction strategies in Baltimore.
“Bridges started about two years ago, catalyzed by the support of Open Society Institute-Baltimore and Drug Policy Alliance funded for us to start organizing and really using a racial justice lens, recognizing that Baltimore City has been targeted by the racist War on Drugs for decades,” she said.