Andrew Yang supports providing government funding for safe consumption sites for illegal drugs to help combat the nation’s overdose crisis.
The entrepreneur and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate said investing in the harm reduction facilities would help individuals avoid overdoses by allowing them to inject illicit drugs in a medically supervised environment where they would also receive support to enter into treatment.
“I would not only decriminalize opiates for personal use but I would also invest in safe consumption sites around the country,” Yang told The Hill’s Krystal Ball in an interview published on Tuesday. He said part of the inspiration for the policy proposal was a conversation he had with a firefighter who told him about the cycle of drug misuse and how people who overdose often end up doing it again without access to supportive spaces.
“You go home and you’re still addicted and you wind up in many cases overdosing again,” he said. “We need to refer these people to counseling, treatment and safe consumption sites as needed.”
Yang said that he recognizes his proposals represent “a very big step” but that it’s time for the government to be held accountable for allowing drug companies to recklessly market addictive opioid painkillers and allocate resources into helping people get treatment.
“At this point we have to say this was a systemic failure of capitalism run amok in the worst and most destructive way possible and that our government should come clean, claw back the resources from the drug companies and put them to work in communities to try to make people stronger and healthier—but also say to individuals who are struggling with addiction that this is not a crime of personal character, this is a systemic problem and if you’re using drugs and addicted, we should be referring you to counseling and treatment and not a prison cell,” he said.
Yang, who also backs marijuana legalization, has sought to distinguish his plan to end the opioid crisis from those of other candidates, placing an emphasis on harm reduction policies.
“We need to decriminalize opioids for personal use. We need to let this country know this is not a personal failing, this was a systemic government failing,” Yang said during a Democratic presidential debate in October. “Then we need to open up safe consumption and safe injection sites around the country because they save lives.”
Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, also presidential candidates, have called for the establishment of safe injection sites.
Photo courtesy of ABC News.