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August 16, 2019

Somerville Patch: Rep. Ayanna Pressley Backs Somerville Safe Drug Use Site

SOMERVILLE, MA — Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone’s plan to open a safe injection site for drug users has been criticized by federal law enforcement, but he does have one influential figure in his corner: Rep. Ayanna Pressley. The congresswoman, who represents Somerville as part of the 7th District, said leaders must “invest in bold solutions” to battle addiction.

“I applaud Mayor Curtatone for his leadership and innovative solutions to our district’s opioid crisis,” Pressley said in a statement.

Pressley urged federal lawmakers to pass the CARE Act, a bill she co-sponsored that would provide state and local governments with $100 billion in federal funding over 10 years, including more than $800 million annually to tribal governments and organizations. She said it would give Massachusetts about $120.1 million in state and local formula grants to “expand access to innovative, evidence-based treatment and recovery services.”

Curtatone told WBUR this week he wants to open a supervised consumption site next year to allow medical professionals to monitor drug use and potentially save an overdose victim’s life.

“I just attended another funeral for someone who was a victim to that epidemic,” Curtatone said in an interview with WBUR.

But his plan could come into conflict with federal law. Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said a facility for people to inject themselves with heroin and fentanyl is illegal at both state and federal levels.

“Barring a change in the Justice Department’s position, if Somerville opens one, federal enforcement will follow,” Lelling said in an emailed statement. Lelling added that he believes there is a “surge in public misinformation” about safe consumption sites.

Curtatone told WBUR a working group formed this summer is examining the legal, financial, community and operational impacts of an injection site. He does not have an opening date or location for the site but said emergency services in Somerville support the idea. Curtatone expects to have a plan by the end of the year, WBUR reported.