DENVER — The city council will vote on Monday night on whether Denver could become the first city in the country to allow a supervised drug injection site.
“We have a citywide opioid plan that includes prevention, treatment but also harm reduction,” Councilman Albus Brooks said.
Brooks said data from cities around the world that have had the sites operating for years shows it could save lives.
He supports the measure and believes it will pass with a large majority vote.
“We are tired of seeing people die on the streets,” Brooks said. “And if this was about any other subject, if it was about drunk driving, if it was about anything else, we could do something extreme.”
A bill to allow sites failed at the state level, but Brooks believes the new makeup in the State Senate could change that.
Brooks said Denver’s vote could send a strong message to Governor-elect Jared Polis that the city wants to take bold action to combat the opioid epidemic.
“There’s an urgency, obviously. We had 201 deaths, the second-leading cause of death in 2017,” Brooks said. “And that’s a problem and I don’t want 2018 to be worse, and I don’t want 2019 to be worse. We’re trying to address it, but we want to do it the right way.”
The site would have volunteers supervising drug use and providing clean needles. Supervisors would also have Narcan at the ready, in case of overdose.
But because users would be bringing their own illegal drugs to the site, opponents think it sets a bad example for the city to be condoning illegal activity.
“I can’t recall an issue on which I’ve struggled coming to terms with this one. It’s literally life and death and I respect that,” Councilman Kevin Flynn said.
Brooks said a two-year pilot program in Denver would be privately funded. It would need final approval by state lawmakers.
“Once it passes the General Assembly, we will come back and enter a probably six- to nine-month process through the community, through Denver Public Health and Environment,” Brooks said.