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Bill would make Maine one of the few states that allows safe injection sites

Tapestry Health's harm reduction team hands out items such as filters and pipes to people from its mobile unit. The center is located in Springfield, MA.
Jesse Costa/WBUR
Tapestry Health's harm reduction team hands out items such as filters and pipes to people from its mobile unit.

A proposed bill would make Maine one of the few states that offers harm reduction centers, where people can use drugs including opioids, in a supervised setting.

The bipartisan bill would create a two-year pilot program for an interested municipality to establish a center, which would also provide health care and access to treatment. The bill's sponsor, Democratic Rep. Laurie Osher, told lawmakers on the Health and Human Services committee on Monday that the center would save lives. She compared the current opioid overdose epidemic to the early days of the HIV epidemic.

"It took years for the government to respond to that public health emergency because politicians allowed the stigmatization of the people infected with the virus to desensitize them to the need to take swift action," Osher said.

Doctors, advocates and people in recovery were among those who testified in support of the bill. Harm reduction centers, also known as safe injection sites, have been used for years in Europe, Canada, and Australia. But they've proved controversial in the U.S., where opponents say they encourage drug use.