ST. LOUIS - Aaron Laxton says it might sound counterintuitive but a bill aimed at reducing opioid addiction in Missouri would give users a safe place to use without fear of prosecution. Laxton knows all too well just how damaging heroin can be.
“I’ve lost a nephew at 16, a niece at 26 and a cousin who was 28,” he said.
His story is all too familiar to other Missouri families. Area first responders say a day doesn’t go by without a call in the St. Louis area for an overdose. Laxton is the program director for Missouri Safe Project, https://www.mosafe.org an organization aimed at reducing I.V. overdoses, HIV, and hepatitis C infections. House Bill 2367 is part of a comprehensive set of bills Missouri Safe Project hopes will pass in Missouri.
The bill would allow communities to create what’s known as safe consumption facilities. The facilities would be a place where heroin users could use their drugs and receive treatment at the same time. Medical personnel and social workers would be able to help direct users into forms of treatment.
“We want to bring people out of the shadows,” said Laxton. “We don’t condone what you’re doing but until we can get you to a point where you’re not using, we’re going to be here for you.”
He said Vancouver has approved a similar program with immediate results.
“In the immediate vicinity where the site has been operating we’ve seen a 35% reduction in overdose deaths,” said Laxton.
House Bill 2367 has little chance of passing this legislative session but Laxton promises to make his pitch to lawmakers next year. He says once they recognize how many of their own constituents have overdosed, they realize something needs to be done.