Last week, OSI hosted a delegation of people who have worked at Overdose Prevention Sites (OPS) in Canada and Europe to talk to city and state legislators, advocates, and the public about their experiences and the ways that such sites not only save lives, but also build community and have also helped thousands of drug users enter treatment. At OPSs, people can use drugs under medical supervision and access treatment and referral services. There are more than 200 Overdose Prevention Sites around the world, in Europe, Asia, and Canada, and in the thousands of supervised injections in those facilities, no one has ever died. There were 2,406 overdose deaths in Maryland in 2018.
On Monday, Russell Maynard from Vancouver’s Insite and Aura Roig, from Barcelona’s Metzineres, attended a meeting with community-based health workers and harm reduction advocates, then went to City Hall to see the City Council pass Council President Brandon Scott’s resolutions calling for hearings on bringing Overdose Prevention Sites and more needle exchanges to the city. Afterwards, Maynard and Roig met with Scott and Council members Zeke Cohen, Bill Henry, and Kristerfer Burnett to discuss the process for establishing OPSs in Vancouver and Barcelona how they might be replicated in Baltimore.
On Tuesday, Roig and Maynard were joined by Beverly Lightfoot, also of Vancouver’s Insite, to attend a legislative breakfast in Annapolis hosted by the Bridges Coalition, an OSI grantee. Afterwards, they met with several legislators, including Del. Shelly Hettleman (D, 11), who is sponsoring legislation to establish OPSs in Maryland in this year’s General Assembly, as well as Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk (D, 21) and Del. Kirill Reznik (D, 39).
On Wednesday, the visitors met with State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and representatives from the Baltimore Police Department, before speaking at a public forum at Community College of Baltimore County in Dundalk, co-sponsored by OSI and NCADD-Maryland. On Thursday, the visitors met with another group of advocates, including representatives from the No Boundaries Coalition and CASA.