RICHARDS: Government-Sanctioned Drug Injection Sites Will Only Make The Overdose Crisis Worse

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Maurice Richards Former Chief of Police, Martinsburg WV
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Editor’s note: We endeavor to bring you the top voices on current events representing a range of perspectives. Below is a column arguing that safe injection sites will only exacerbate the drug overdose crisis. You can find a counterpoint here, where the Reason Foundation’s Geoffrey Lawrence argues that safe injection sites are an effective way of combating the drug overdose crisis

Last year, 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses — almost 70,000 of those from opioids. Joe Biden and the Democrats are using this tragedy as a pretext to install a radical program of state-sanctioned heroin injection sites.  But government-run drug injection sites will worsen the crisis of drug addiction and will not reduce overdose deaths.

Unlike the Trump administration, which fought and stopped the opening of an injection site in Philadelphia, Biden’s Justice Department has signaled that it may be willing to allow safe injection sites.

We don’t have to wait for these projects to unfold to see what a disaster heroin injection sites are — Canada already has. In 2003, the first was opened in Vancouver. The “InSite” facility is promoted as a success story — but that is false. Claims such as the site resulted in a “35% overdose reduction” in the immediate neighborhood have been debunked. In fact, every year there are approximately 1,500 overdoses within a block of the facility. In Vancouver from 2006 to 2021, overdose deaths increased from 45 to 524. But seeing is believing. Video evidence shows the neighborhood around the site has degenerated into a dystopian nightmare of drug addicts, dealers, prostitutes, crime, filth, disease and despair.

In 2020, the Provincial Government of Alberta released a devastating report studying injection sites in six cities and their impact upon adjacent neighborhoods. Drug trafficking, public drug use, prostitution, burglary, car thefts and violence all increased as did deaths from drug overdoses. Heroin addicts using the injection sites would intentionally consume higher doses than they would normally to get a “higher high” — because they knew that staff would revive them if they overdosed. Neighborhoods were destroyed by trespassers, vagrants, public urination and defecation. Used syringes littered streets, sidewalks, doorways, yards, parks and playgrounds. Businesses had closed.

As in Vancouver — evidence of successful drug treatment and rehabilitation were non-existent. Some sites reported referrals of less than one percent. But getting people clean and sober is not on the injection site advocates’ agenda. Their ultimate goals are legalization of all street drugs, and government supplied drugs—to enable people’s addiction and dependence until they die. Government sanctioned heroin injection and its destruction of human life is a surrender to evil. Is this really where we want to go?

But the war on drugs isn’t lost yet. We just need to fight smarter. Here’s a four-point plan to get started.

  1. Enforcement. Fentanyl is a killer. The synthetic opioid is 100 times stronger than morphine. Its precursor chemicals are shipped from China to Mexico where it’s manufactured as powder or pills. We must choke off the supply.

But because Biden and the Democrats have opened America’s borders to invite an invasion of two million illegal aliens and surrendered our country to the Mexican cartels who’ve flooded our country with drugs — this won’t be easy. We will need a Congress with new leadership and a new president with integrity. The border wall must be completed, border integrity reestablished and the cartels treated as terrorist organizations. China must be confronted head on to break its connection in fentanyl production.

Locally, police must be able to conduct Broken Windows policing with the ability to enforce laws for lower-level crimes, including all drug laws. It is uncommon for heroin addicts to seek treatment voluntarily — they need to be pushed. Drug courts are effective in motivating them by holding jail time in abeyance after conviction, mandating treatment and requiring participation in Day Report Center programs. Upon successful completion, sentences can be expunged.

It is counter-productive to put addicts in jail for low-level, non-violent offenses — jails are filled with drugs. But police need the tool of arrest to get them into drug court for possible intervention. Ironically, it is the radical George Soros-funded district attorneys, by refusing to prosecute low-level crimes, who make it impossible to do so. Every subversive prosecutor must be targeted and voted out of office.

  1. Treatment. Much more resources must go towards treatment and Day Report Center programs so drug courts can operate at peak efficiency.
  2. Education. A massive education campaigns with immediate public service warnings in schools, communities, and in all media about the danger of fentanyl counterfeit pills must begin now. Long-term education in schools with police-student interaction must be designed.
  3. “Smart” Harm Reduction. Stringently controlled needle exchange programs work. Used syringes are brought in and exchanged for clean ones. This prevents the transmission of Hepatitis and HIV and puts addicts in a positive environment of peer counselors dedicated to helping people break free from addiction. Unlike injection sites that promote perpetual heroin use, this is not an enabling program. A competently administered needle exchange can achieve an exchange ratio of close to 100%.

Drug addiction robs human beings of their souls. The Democrats’ policy of government-sanctioned injection sites will further enable addiction, and result in millions of shortened, unhealthy, unhappy and unproductive lives. We cannot allow this to be America’s future.

Maurice Richards is the former chief of the Martinsburg Police Department in West Virginia. He served as chief from 2015 to 2020 after 24 years as an officer and lieutenant in the Chicago Police Department. Richards holds a doctorate in adult education from Northern Illinois University. His writing has been featured in The Daily Caller, The Federalist, Human Events, The Hill, and American Greatness.