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Physician-turned-lawmaker argues in favor of safe injection sites in Massachusetts


NEEDHAM, Mass. — As a practicing emergency medical physician at Boston Medical Center, Rep. Jon Santiago has a unique perspective on the South End district that elected him to the state Legislature.

In an interview recorded for Sunday's episode of "On The Record," Santiago said he often finds himself treating constituents who are caught up in the opioid crisis. He believes that safe injection sites would be one effective way to address the opioid crisis.


Santiago argued that the sites can be useful in the fight against addiction and pointed to examples that have operated in Canada for over a decade.

He also acknowledged that U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling is dead-set against the idea because it violates federal law.

"So is marijuana, so is smoking marijuana, federally. We've done something in the state. The same argument was made for needle exchanges and those have grown in popularity, save lives, decrease HIV and hepatitis C infections and do a lot of good work. I think given how bad the situation has become we really have to have all hands on deck and to have all options on the table," Santiago said.

Lelling issued a statement earlier this year in which he warned that employees and patients at a safe injection site would be subject to criminal prosecution.

"I cannot envision any scenario in which sites that normalize intravenous use of heroin and fentanyl would be off limits to federal law enforcement efforts," Lelling said.


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