FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 15, 2018
CONTACT: Kyle Murphy, 202-876-2820
Washington, DC – AIDS United was troubled to see language in the House of Representative’s Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies and Financial Services and General Government Subcommittees’ Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19) appropriations bills that prohibits the use of Federal funding for the operation of a “supervised drug consumption facility,” which is commonly called a safer consumption site (SCS) in the field.
SCS are healthcare facilities where drug users can consume their own drugs under the supervision of trained staff. They seek to attract hard-to-reach populations of users, especially those who use in public spaces or in other risky and unhygienic conditions to reduce morbidity and mortality by providing a safer environment. Health care staff offer training and education on the prevention of overdose death, injury, and infectious disease transmission. At the same time, they seek to reduce public drug use, to ensure the safety of others. An additional aim is to promote access to social services, health care, and drug treatment facilities.
As the nation grapples with addressing the opioid epidemic prohibiting federal funding for the operation of an SCS would only serve to limit research and evaluation opportunities, limit clinical services for people who inject drugs, and create a chilling effect between local communities, health departments and community-based organizations at a time when collaboration is particularly critical. By barring the use of federal funds for the salaries of health care and social services professionals employed at such locations, Congress would isolate local communities seeking to explore the role SCS might play in reducing overdose deaths, preventing new HIV and hepatitis C infections, and improving the quality of life among people who inject drugs from federal resources, expertise, and oversight.
AIDS United strongly supports an evidence-based, public health response to the opioid crisis that prioritizes the health and dignity of people who inject drugs by utilizing a harm reduction approach instead of criminalization. Since 2016, our Public Policy Council, the largest and longest-running national coalition of community-based HIV/AIDS organizations, has called for the local implementation of SCS as part of an integrated service delivery system, including integrated primary, infectious disease, and mental health care, integrated medication assisted therapy, and access to case management, housing, and other supportive services. Further, AIDS United supports programs that are designed to divert people who inject drugs away from criminal justice involvement and into treatment, preferably of their own volition.
AIDS United calls on Congress to reject this ill-advised policy rider and, where possible, support language and funding that will help strengthen the delivery of critical opioid crisis response services.
AIDS United’s mission is to end the AIDS epidemic in the U.S. through strategic grant-making, capacity building, formative research and policy. AIDS United works to ensure access to life-saving HIV/AIDS care and prevention services and to advance sound HIV/AIDS-related policy for U.S. populations and communities most impacted by the epidemic. To date, our strategic grant-making initiatives have directly funded more than $104 million to local communities and have leveraged more than $117 million in additional investments for programs that include, but are not limited to HIV prevention, access to care, capacity building, harm reduction and advocacy. www.aidsunited.org.