DC Attorney General leads coalition supporting states’ rights to battle opioid overdoses through public health policies


Washington, DC Attorney General Karl A. Racine, along with a coalition of 10 other attorneys general, supported states’ rights to enact public health policies that may prevent opioid overdoses.

In an amicus brief filed in the United States v. Safehouse case before the U.S. Court of appeals for the Third Circuit, the attorneys general said they oppose a Trump administration effort to stop the Pennsylvania nonprofit from operating a “safe injection site.” The nonprofit, Safehouse, provides a medically supervised site that allows high-risk users to inject opioids, and receive immediate medical care if they overdose.

The District of Columbia is a hotbed for opioid overdoses, ranking seventh among states with the highest rate of opioid overdose deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 128 Americans die each day from opioid overdoses. In the first 10 months of 2019, DC recorded 220 opioid overdose deaths – a 22 percent increase over the same time period in 2018

Maintaining the authority to enact public health policies and solutions is critical for states of being able to combat the opioid epidemic, the attorneys general said in their brief.

“As the District and states across the country experience the devastating effects of the opioid crisis, it is critical that jurisdictions be able to enact live-saving solutions that fit the needs of their residents,” said AG Racine. “Our coalition of State Attorneys General supports Safehouse’s right to operate a safe injection site that can prevent opioid overdose deaths. The federal government should not seek to block locally supported public health interventions that are data-driven and can save lives.”

Supporters of Safehouse say the service of “safe injection sites” is critical because opioid overdoses can cause death within minutes – sometimes too quickly for emergency medical personnel to respond. The sites also reduce the risks associated with public usage, such as contaminated needles. No safe injection sites have been opened in the United States, but about 100 operate in Canada, Australia, and Europe.

Attorneys General from California, Delaware, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and Virginia joined Racine in the brief.

Joining the District of Columbia in today’s amicus brief are the State Attorneys General from California, Delaware, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and Virginia.