A major federal health agency is seeking to bolster studies on the effectiveness of a variety of harm reduction policies — including decriminalization and safe consumption sites — as part of a campaign to combat the overdose epidemic.
While the Biden administration has not taken a position on policy proposals to license safe consumption facilities, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) filed a pair of Requests for Applications (RFAs) on Wednesday for efforts that will provide funding for efforts to investigate how these policies can help. and other harm reduction policies in addressing the drug crisis.
Specifically, the National Institutes of Health wants it construction Harm Reduction Network that seeks to “increase our understanding of the efficacy, implementation, and impact of current and new harm reduction practices to address the ongoing opioid crisis and substance use disorder more broadly.”
HEAL Initiative: Policies, Practices, and Techniques for Delivering Harm Reduction for People with Substance Use Disorders (R01 elective clinical trial) https://t.co/59VOnbTVmj
Funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIHfunding) December 29, 2021
parallel RFA It calls for a focal point within the network to provide “logistical and coordination support,” “data coordination and data sharing support,” and “research and clinical practice resources.”
Applications are accepted for projects that “(1) develop and test new harm reduction strategies; (2) study how to effectively implement new and existing harm reduction strategies; (3) expand the settings and delivery models within which harm reduction strategies are deployed; and (4) Examine the impact of new harm reduction policies applied at the state and local levels.”
The notice states that “harm reduction services aim to prevent or reduce adverse outcomes related to substance use, such as fatal and non-fatal overdose and transmission of infectious diseases.” “Examples of well-established harm reduction approaches include naloxone, fentanyl test strips (FTS), safer smoking equipment, and sterile syringes, as well as testing for HIV and hepatitis C.”
Notices from the National Institutes of Health and constituent agencies such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) state that “emerging” harm reduction policies “include decriminalization of various drugs, police and attorney-general-driven diversion and diversion efforts, and licensing of safe consumption sites.”
They also noted that the White House Office of National Drug Policy (ONDCP) prioritizes harm reduction policy as a way to prevent overdose.
HEAL Initiative: Harm Reduction Policies, Practices, and Techniques for People with Substance Use Disorders: Coordination Center (R24 Clinical Trial Optional) https://t.co/KPWFRhszv9
Funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIHfunding) December 29, 2021
NIDA Director Nora Volkow has repeatedly expressed concerns about the harms of criminalizing drug possession, specifically calling racial disparities in enforcement as a major problem—including in Interview with the marijuana moment and in several Opinion articles.
When it comes to safe consumption sites, Volkow said earlier this year that she is open to continuing to explore “how these support systems as a community can help people, for example, engage in treatment, how they can prevent them from contracting HIV. And how they can that Preventing them from overdosing and dying. “
New York City launched its first sanctioned safe consumption site late this month, leaving advocates wondering how the federal government would respond given its role in preventing a Philadelphia nonprofit, Safehouse, from launching its own harm reduction center.
New York City officials say the sites – where people can use currently illegal drugs in a medically supervised environment where they have access to treatment resources –Already saved dozens of lives.
This is just one part of the NIH’s harm reduction research initiative. Below is a description of the research topics you want to explore:
Research to develop and test new approaches and/or settings for harm reduction service delivery, including strategies that include sectors outside the health care system and strategies that do not rely on face-to-face interaction
Research that seeks to understand individual and system-wide barriers to providing effective, scalable, and sustainable harm reduction services, such as individuals forgetting or unwilling to carry naloxone or fentanyl test strips, workforce shortages, funding limitations, and stigmatizing attitudes toward individuals with SUD.
Research to develop and/or test strategies to address identified barriers to effective, scalable and sustainable harm reduction services,
Research strategies to ensure that individuals from vulnerable, hard-to-reach and/or hard-to-reach groups can access and benefit from harm reduction services.
Research the implications of emerging harm reduction policies, including their effectiveness in reducing negative outcomes and barriers/facilitators to successful implementation in real-world conditions
Research into harm reduction strategies for individuals who use methamphetamine and other stimulants
Nine applicants will be selected to undertake studies as part of the five-year programme. It approved up to $6.75 million for projects in fiscal year 2022.
The new notice also talks about applications for marijuana research, stressing that any such studies are “required to measure and report results using Delta 9-THC Standard Unit in all applicable human subjects research.
“The goal is to increase the comparability of research studies on cannabis. A standard delta-9-THC unit is defined as any combination of cannabis plant substances or extract containing 5 milligrams of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol.” “A rationale must be provided for human research that does not suggest the use of the standard unit.”
Regarding safe consumption sites, activists in several cities have attempted to establish such centers in recent years.
In October, the Supreme Court Reject a request to hear a case On the legality of the construction of the facilities in Philadelphia, but the case is still before a lower court, and advocates are eagerly awaiting a response from the Department of Justice to show where the agency decides to discuss the case under the Biden administration.
Under a mutual agreement between federal officials and Safehouse, the deadline for the administration to present its position has been pushed back to March 7. It had previously been extended to November 5 this year. Advocates see this as a positive sign.
Rahul Gupta, the White House’s drug czar, said recently that it is critical to explore “any option” to reduce overdose deaths, It can include allowing safe consumption sites for illegal substances if the evidence supports their effectiveness.
The ONDCP director previously said he couldn’t talk about harm reduction centers due to ongoing litigation related to Safehouse, but seemed more open to the possibility in a recent interview with CNN.
The US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), Xavier Bacerra, also recently indicated that the Biden administration would not act to prevent the creation of safe injection sites, stressing that we are “literally trying to give users a lifeline.”
But the department spokesperson Those notes later retracted, noting that “HHS has no position in supervised consumption sites” and that “the issue is a matter of ongoing litigation.” In any case, it will be up to the Department of Justice to decide whether to prosecute facility operators under the Controlled Substances Act.
Bacerra was among eight of the state’s top law enforcement officials who Foot friend brief In support of the Safehouse safe injection site plan When he served as the attorney general for the state of California.
The Biden administration has generally promoted the concept of harm reduction as part of its drug policy, but has not formally placed its weight on safe consumption sites in particular.
The defenders put the current situation in no uncertain terms. They say harm reduction centers could mean the difference between life and death for the countless Americans who currently consume illegal drugs.
Early data out of New York City suggests that the facilities could prevent far more deaths than the Health Department expected. Its feasibility study found that safe consumption sites could save up to 130 lives per year.
The legal complications of these harm reduction sites are primarily related to the federal “crack house law” that makes it a felony to use a site to manufacture, distribute, or consume controlled substances.
A coalition of 80 current and former attorneys general and law enforcement officials — including Biden’s pick for the position of United States attorney general in Massachusetts — has delivered an earlier brief urging the Supreme Court to: Address the issue of safe consumption in Safehouse.
While New York City is the first city to open harm reduction centers, the governor of Rhode Island signed a landmark bill in July to Create a beta program for a safe consumption site.
Massachusetts legislators Similar legislation was introduced last year, but was not eventually enacted.
A similar damage-reduction bill in California, sponsored by Senator Scott Weiner (D), was approved in the state Senate in April, but further action has been delayed until 2022.
Image courtesy of Journey Foreman.