By Dominic Holden
President Trump pledged in his recent State of the Union address to help curb opioid overdoses by “fighting the drug epidemic and helping get treatment for those in need.”
This week, however, Trump administration officials made it clear they reject one controversial emerging strategy outright: facilities where heroin users can inject the drug under supervision.
Katherine Pfaff, a spokesperson for the DEA, told BuzzFeed News that agents may take legal action against the facilities because they’re federally prohibited. Three major cities — San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Seattle — recently approved drug injection sites, with San Francisco’s site expected to open as soon as summer.
“Supervised injection facilities, or so-called safe injection sites, violate federal law,” Pfaff told BuzzFeed News. “Any facilitation of illicit drug use is considered in violation of the Controlled Substances Act and, therefore, subject to legal action.”
In Seattle, prosecutors are prepared to fight back against Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose Justice Department oversees the DEA.
“I am just girding for the legal battle, and that could be a lot of fun — a face-off with Jeff Sessions,” King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg told BuzzFeed News. King County is slated to operate the facility in Seattle.
“The Justice Department could threaten to bring a civil action or criminal action against us,” said Satterberg. “But we think it will be an opportunity to convince the court that local public health powers are superior to criminal statutes that ban private drug dens run for profit.”
While shooting heroin and other illicit drugs is illegal in the United States, public health officials contend these facilities are proven to reduce fatalities by keeping staff nearby to resuscitate people who overdose and provide treatment to addicts. Advocates for such facilities point to studies in Canada and Australia, where supervised injection sites have operated for some time.