In 2021, Rhode Island became the first state in the nation to enact a law authorizing a two-year pilot program for harm reduction centers (HRC) to help save lives from drug-related overdose and deaths. HRCs, also known as overdose prevention sites or supervised injection facilities, connect drug users to resources and evidence-based harm reduction strategies and programs.
HRCs also help ensure that if an individual unintentionally overdoses, trained personnel will be on hand to administer life-saving support.
AMA policy supports the development and implementation of pilot HRCs in the United States that are designed, monitored, and evaluated to generate data to inform policymakers on the feasibility, effectiveness, and legal aspects of HRCs in reducing harms and health care costs related to injection drug use. According to the AMA, data and analysis of these facilities show that they help reduce overdose, improve access to treatment, and do not increase crime.
The first state facility is scheduled to open in March 2024, and evaluation of the HRC will be aided by a recently announced grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the HRC in Rhode Island when it opens.
Eight Indiana counties – Marion, Allen, Monroe, Tippecanoe, Clark, Madison, Fayette and Wayne – have syringe exchange centers that offer information on drug treatment options and harm reduction, but do not go as far as supervising injections onsite. Another 14 counties have resource centers with safety and treatment information but without needle exchanges.
In an overview provided by the AMA, seven key features of the Rhode Island effort are:
- The HRC pilot is part of the statewide strategy to prevent overdose and death.
- Rhode Island established a two-year pilot program to evaluate the center.
- Legislators ensured that municipal approval is required to operate a site.
- Multidisciplinary advisory committees will provide ongoing input.
- An extensive regulatory framework will implement the center as a health care facility.
- Ongoing data collection at the center will help officials evaluate its effectiveness.
- The state department of health has the authority to conduct investigations.
Read more about the pilot program in this overview from the AMA
In accordance with ISMA policy 22-08, we will continue to monitor the development of this program and distribute information as it becomes relevant.