Majority of Voters Support Overdose Prevention Sites During COVID19



The Justice Collaborative Institute and Data for Progress today released a report highlighting a critical measure state and local officials can take that will save lives: Create and support overdose prevention sites. According to the data released, a majority of voters from both major political parties support establishing and maintaining said sites.

“The benefits of overdose prevention sites neatly overlap with a number of policies that have been instrumental to slowing the spread of COVID-19, including reducing arrests, reducing jail populations, protecting homeless populations to reduce infections, and preserving scarce medical resources,” said Rob Smith, Executive Director of The Justice Collaborative. “Overdose protection sites do all of these things.”

The report finds there’s widespread, bipartisan support for establishing and maintaining overdose prevention sites: Sixty percent of voters, including 53% of Republicans, support overdose prevention sites as a tool that state and local governments may use to reduce overdoses in their cities and states. Fifty-eight percent of voters believe that mayors and other local officials should open overdose prevention sites if they feel they will address an overdose crisis, even if the state government opposes.

Voters of both parties also support ensuring overdose prevention sites are equipped to provide high-quality and comprehensive care. Fifty-eight percent of voters, including 60% of Republicans, prefer setting up overdose prevention sites as part of already existing health care systems and hospital networks, while 61% of voters, including 57% of Republicans, prefer rigorous standards for overdose prevention sites that include the ability to provide in-patient treatment. 

As many communities continue to face epidemic-level overdose fatalities — along with the collateral consequences of substance use, including infectious disease transmission, heart problems, and suicide– overdose prevention sites can provide a safe, supervised space to use drugs and access to medical treatment.

Not using alone is vital to safety. But many programs that involve in-person harm reduction strategies have been shuttered during the pandemic. This is the wrong strategy: public safety actually requires finding safe, socially-distanced ways to keep these spaces open, as already-overwhelmed hospitals cannot handle being faced with an influx of overdose patients. 

The full report is available here.

The Justice Collaborative Institute is a coalition of justice reform scholars from across the nation focused on providing an academic perspective to conversations and work surrounding mass incarceration and related issues.