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Debate over giving drug users a safe space to use in Colorado

Posted: 10:49 PM, Aug 04, 2017
Updated: 2017-08-05 01:21:39-04
Denver: 'Safe injection sites' for drug users?
Denver: 'Safe injection sites' for drug users?

DENVER -- The push for a specific area for drug users to safely shoot up is gaining momentum in Denver. But, as you'd expect, the topic of "safe injection sites" comes with a debate over what's right. 

Denver7 spoke to those on all sides of the issue, starting with a drug user in Civic Center Park. 

"Wherever they're doing their drugs at, it's a danger zone for not just the individual but it's also a danger zone for families, kids, everyone else," said the man, who did not wish to be identified. 
 
That's where the idea for safe injection sites comes from.

"We basically want to take injecting out of the public sphere and into a controlled environment," Lisa Raville of the Harm Reduction Action Center (HRCA) said.

She's talking about a legal, supervised place to shoot up. Leave your needles, and leave. 

"No one acquires HIV or Hep C, they dispose the equipment, and if they overdoes there is a trained professional there to respond to that," she said, adding that it would be in a discreet location. 
 
"It keeps the needles out of the park, it keeps people from catching diseases," the drug user said. "You're basically going to keep yourself safe."
 
Denver's would be modeled after a site in Vancouver. It's a room with individual, sterile cubicles where everything is provided except for the drugs. 
 
The Denver Medical Society recently put its support behind the idea. But not everyone is so supportive.
 
"I don't agree with it because it's promoting drug use," Tiffany Glenski said. "And it's not like pot, like a mellow drug, it's drugs you can overdose on, drugs you can die from."
 
"In the City and County of Denver last year alone at least 20 died outside in a park, in an alley, or in a public bathroom and we can do better," Raville countered. 
 
Other places do have these types of sites. HRAC officials told Denver7 that 63 cities across 9 countries have these sort of arrangements. Seattle will be the first in the U.S., since the city approved them earlier this year. 
 
But isn't it still illegal? To open one, it would require an exemption to the possession and use law. Right now, "conversations are being had" about that.  
 
And why not just send the users to treatment instead? Demand is so high for treatment, that when paired with cost, many people simply can't get it. Supporters said that since drugs will be used anyway, why not do it in a safe, controlled space.
 
The HRAC will be holding an educational community meeting on this topic on August 15 at the Denver Central Library starting at 5:30 p.m.