President's Message: A Bold Statement for Public Health

Henry Dorkin, M.D.Your House of Delegates, at the 2017 Annual Meeting, voted overwhelmingly to support a pilot supervised injection facility (SIF) program in Massachusetts under the direction of a state-led task force. A SIF allows users of illicit narcotics to bring their drugs and inject themselves under medical supervision, rather than down the proverbial dark alley. Before the vote, the Society had conducted a detailed analysis of the impact of SIF facilities elsewhere.

At first, this seems counterintuitive. Many not in attendance at the HOD were surprised — members of the public, legislators, regulators, and even some MMS members. However, I believe that the strong HOD support shows that MMS members are committed to public health and not reticent to make difficult decisions to save lives.

The evidence is clear. The report by the MMS concluded that in other countries, SIFs save lives by bringing critical interventions closer to those in need. Data show that when users have SIF access, they are more likely to seek treatment for their substance abuse. Additionally, SIFs may help prevent transmission of diseases associated with injectable drug use, and help protect persons who inject drugs from related crimes. In communities where SIFs began amidst sizable opposition, that opposition became a strong supportive voice once the positive results were clear.

SIFs aren’t the only solution to the opioid crisis, but they represent an additional step toward saving lives. MMS members will continue to be confronted by difficult choices as we advocate for our patients, as we confront public health crises, and as we speak out for the underserved. I feel confident that when presented with convincing data, we will consider novel actions that help us achieve the common goal.

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