Inside A Safe Injection Site That Breaks The Law But Prevents Overdoses (HBO)

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Public health experts say that one of the best ways to curb overdose deaths is by establishing safe injection sites—places where people can use heroin and other drugs under medical supervision. They are one pillar in a harm-reduction approach, and there’s evidence that they not only save lives, but are also a cost-effective way to reduce HIV and hepatitis transmission risks, reduce public injections, and increase the number of people who enter drug treatment.

Despite these benefits, not everyone agrees that officially-sanctioned drug-use is a good thing. So far, US cities that have pushed for the idea have been shot down.

Toronto got farther: in 2016, its city council approved three safe injection sites. Like the rest of North America, the city is reeling from the opioid crisis (Ontario reported a record 865 fatal overdoses last year). But by this August, none of the sites had opened. So a group of harm reduction workers decided to open one on their own, even though they had to break the law to do it.

This is the third installment for our series "World of Hurt," which examines the ways different regions are impacted by the opioid crisis. If you or anyone you know would like to share their story as part of our ongoing coverage, please email Seth Dalton and Cassandra Giraldo at seth.dalton@vice.com and cassandra.giraldo@vice.com.

VICE News’ Rachel Browne contributed to this report and has ongoing coverage of Toronto’s safe injection sites.

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