Trump Justice Department Goes After Overdose Prevention Sites as ‘Crack Houses’
Two major U.S. cities are trying to open facilities to save drug users’ lives, but the Trump administration is trying to stop them, arguing the facilities are no different than crack houses.
Seattle and Philadelphia plan to curb overdose deaths by opening facilities where drug users can ingest illicit substances like heroin under medical supervision. So-called overdose prevention sites are part of a strategy that seeks to reduce harm from drug use. The facilities were first popularized in Western Europe and have made their way to Canada and now potentially the U.S. While controversial and seemingly counterintuitive, over 100 such facilities currently operate in several countries, and public health experts consider them a staple of a robust strategy to prevent overdoses. Even Vice President Mike Pence, when he was Indiana’s governor during an HIV outbreak, implemented a similar program to distribute fresh syringes to prevent new infections.
President Trump campaigned on ending the overdose crisis, but federal prosecutors appointed by his administration are thwarting cities from pursuing effective strategies. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein promises “swift and aggressive action” if any cities follow through on their plan to implement the sites in the face of a staggering overdose death toll that has led Denver, New York, Seattle, Boston, San Francisco, and Philadelphia to consider implementing them. In 2017, more than 72,000 people died from drug overdoses in the U.S. Among overdose deaths involving opioids, more than 28,000 were due to illicit fentanyl, an uber-potent synthetic opioid manufactured in clandestine laboratories.