“That’s why 12-step recovery groups urge members to avoid the people, places and things that led to their substance abuse, not unlike Christ’s command in Matthew 5:29-30 to tear out one’s right eye and cut off one’s right hand to avoid sin. By enhancing these environmental stimuli, safe injection sites keep individuals locked in addiction.”
‘Doing harm, not good’
Supporters of the injection site point to a similar facility in downtown Vancouver. Known as Insite, the facility opened in 2003. Since then, staff members have supervised more than 3.5 million injections and responded to more than 6,000 overdoses. No one has died at the facility, a statistic which proponents tout as evidence that it has been successful as a harm reduction strategy.
However, Chaput argued that the data from Insite “can hardly be called convincing.”
“Since its opening in 2003, some 3.6 million clients have self-injected at the Vancouver-based site, yet only 48,798 (or 1.35 percent) have received any kind of addiction treatment,” he said, adding that of those who have sought treatment, the type and duration of treatment are not clear.
He cited researchers who argue that politicization of evidence and flaws in data collection raise serious questions about the purported success of safe injection sites.
Steven Bozza, director of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Office for Life and Family and a bioethics professor at Catholic Distance University, argued in an Oct. 17 article for Catholic Philly that the proposed injection site violates fundamental principles of medical ethics.
“Making it easier to engage in life-threatening behavior and codifying it into law — while sending the bill to taxpayers — is doing harm, not good,” he said.
Bozza warned that injection sites encourage individuals to feed their addictions, moving them down a path of increasingly diminished autonomy.
He also argued that “safe injection sites divert badly needed funds away from resources that have already proven effective in offering real hope of recovery from addiction for thousands.”
“The money and resources sought to fund safe injection sites can and should be invested in what has already been proven to work: rehab centers, healthcare benefits that cover relapse treatment, counseling and social support services, vocational and life skills training.”
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Pointing the harm that illicit drugs do not only to those who use them, but also to the millions exploited globally by drug cartels, Chaput stressed that while drug addiction is a serious wound for individuals, families, and communities, supervised injection sites are not the solution.
Instead, he pointed to proven recovery options including “medical treatment, abstinence, counseling, support groups and above all the love of Christ.”
“Ultimately, healing from addiction is found not in a clean needle or Narcan, but in a heart renewed by its creator,” the archbishop said.
A holistic approach
Renee Hudson-Small is the assistant director of Housing and Homeless Services for Catholic Social Services of Philadelphia. She said the agency has found that a broad approach focused on the whole person offers the greatest likelihood of successfully helping people recover from addiction.
“Definitely the holistic approach is, from where we sit, very effective in helping those individuals try to cope with something that is very difficult to overcome, but can be overcome,” Hudson-Small told CNA in an interview earlier this year.