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Providence approves opening of RI’s first safe injection site

Tyler Jackman

Managing Editor

Rhode Island is paving the way for a first-in-the-nation approach to drug prevention. On Feb. 1, the Providence City Council voted unanimously to approve and establish the first state-sanctioned overdose prevention center. The center better known as a “safe injection site”, will operate as a place where those struggling with drug addiction can use drugs safely under professional supervision. 

Photo by Kenneth C. Zirkel

Operated by the harm reduction nonprofits Project Weber/RENEW and VICTA, the site will offer drug usage monitoring, but food, showers, HIV testing, medical and housing support, case support and access to naloxone, the overdose prevention drug better known as Narcan. It is slated to open this summer at 45 Willard Ave., near the Rhode Island Hospital campus in a location easily accessible by RIPTA services.

Minnesota is the only other state to have approved the opening of safe injection sites, but has yet to open a facility. New York City has two operational safe injection sites, but Providence will become the first city in the nation to operate a site with state backing after Rhode Island authorized its opening over two years ago.

The backers of Project Weber/RENEW and VICTA expressed confidence that the safe injection sites will reduce overdose deaths and connect those struggling with addiction to much needed resources. "No one has died from one of these sites," said Daley Ndoye, executive director of Project Weber/RENEW. "We know that we will be able to save lives by bringing people inside and being able to prevent overdoses."

As noted in a previous editorial for The Anchor, safe-injection sites have been shown to reduce overdose deaths by nearly 30%, dramatically decrease rates of needle sharing and public discarding of needles, and to reduce city and state spending on medical interventions related to overdoses. A Brown University study published in 2023 also found no correlation between the presence of a safe injection site and any upticks in crime.

The site will be regulated by the Rhode Island Department of Health through 2026, with evaluations done by Brown University’s School of Public Health to measure the program’s effectiveness at reducing drug prevalence and death in the surrounding community.

The site will be funded primarily through opioid settlement money administered by the Executive Office of Health & Human Services, which allotted the program $3.25 million for 2023 and 2024.


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