Project Inform: Safer Consumption Spaces in the U.S.: Uniting for a National Movement

Project Inform released “Safer Consumption Spaces in the United States: Uniting for a National Movement.” This report stems from a think tank of the same name, held in Baltimore, MD on September 27-28, 2016, where a group of nearly 50 people who use drugs, advocates, policy experts and other public health and harm reduction workers gathered to discuss strategies for moving forward and bringing safer consumption spaces (SCS) to the United States.

SCS are spaces for the safe consumption of pre-obtained drugs with unused syringes and injecting supplies (and in some cases, smoking supplies) in the presence of trained peers or staff who can intervene if overdose or other medical problems arise, as well as provide health education and referrals to other services as needed. SCS have been found to reduce HIV and HCV transmission, prevent overdose death, and increase uptake to medical and social services, including drug treatment. SCS also result in less public injecting and fewer discarded syringes and other drug-related litter in the community.

The report is a summary of the meeting, and serves as a distillation of the presentations, discussions and recommendations covered over the two days. A selection of key themes from the report can be found below:

  • People who use drugs (PWUD) must be at the head of this movement. PWUD are the people who are most impacted by these spaces, and should be involved in all aspects of development from planning and organizing to operating and evaluating.
  • SCS are sites for racial and social justice. These sites are intimately related to criminal justice and drug policy reform because they offer alternatives to the policing of drug use, which disproportionately impacts African American and Latino communities. SCS are safe spaces for people to use their drugs and minimize their contact and arrest by police.
  • These spaces should consider space for non-injection drug use—smoking, snorting or taking pills—to maximize their benefit for all PWUD. Smoking spaces allow people who don’t inject with a place to smoke safely and reduce the health risks and impact of public smoking, and should be included in SCS design and operation.
  • We need to build broad-based coalitions. In order to push the safer drug use space movement forward, we need to expand our outreach beyond the harm reduction and drug policy circles, and ally with LGBTQ organizations, racial justice groups, homeless advocates, faith communities, sex worker rights advocates, families, and others impacted by the opioid crisis.
  • We must engage with and educate local leaders, politicians and policy makers. Reaching local business communities to show them the benefits of these sites is an important strategy. Similarly, we need to engage local politicians and identify champions in city, county, and state governments and bring them on-board, as well.

In the coming weeks, Project Inform will announce a webinar to provide an overview of the meeting and this report. If you have any questions or want to discuss this report, please contact Andrew Reynolds at

About Kim Rodgers

Kim Rodgers serves as a Communications Specialist at NACCHO. Her work includes promoting local health departments' best practices, as well as partner tools and resources, in infectious disease and preparedness through NACCHO's communications channels, storytelling, and outreach to various audiences.

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