Safe Injection Sites

Safe injection sites have been popping up around the world since the early 70’s and while the United States has considered the move to be controversial, there are some cities giving the idea a chance.

Heroin use in America

Photo by: Kiril pipo

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Heroin use has been increasing in recent years among men and women, most age groups, and all income levels. . . During 2015, around 828,000 persons in the United States (12 years or older) used heroin in the past year, which is an estimated rate of 0.3 per 100 persons. And in 2014, more than 11,000 hospitalizations occurred for unintentional, heroin-related poisonings.” These statistics account for heroin use, not for other illicit drugs and do not include those persons who were untruthful or who did not participate when the gathering of this information occured.

Spread of disease

With drugs like heroin that are taken via injection comes an increase in disease spread by unsanitary conditions and dirty needles. The CDC estimates that “about 1 in 10 new HIV diagnoses in the United States are attributed to injection drug use or male-to-male sexual contact and injection drug use.” While diseases are spreading rampantly through the drug community, the general public is also at an increased risk in contracting infectious diseases such as HIV and viral hepatitis. Although some inject drugs at home, other use drugs such as heroin in public places including parks, bathrooms, public transportation, homeless camps, or discreet areas near businesses. Any member of the general public, including children, may come across used needles and other drug paraphernalia left out in these areas. Almost 40 states have implemented needle exchange programs in an effort to stop the spread of disease, but this may not be enough if users are too high to transport their dirty needles to these facilities.

Safe injection sites

Safe injection sites, otherwise known as supervised injection sites are areas set aside for users to use illegal drugs such as heroin. These safe injection sites offer access to clean needles and medical supervision as well as educational information regarding drug abuse. Safe injection sites have been gaining in popularity throughout Europe since the 1970’s with countries such as the Netherlands having more than 30 facilities in operation. The United States however has been slow to accept the idea of safe injection sites with authorities worried it will encourage drug use or appear as though state and government officials are endorsing the illegal activity.

Overdose Prevention

Photo by: Todd Huffman

While safe injection sites could help prevent the spread of disease, one of the most beneficial reasons for these facilities is reducing drug overdoses. The CDC has estimated that over the last year, at least 70,000 people have died from drug overdoses. Over just the last month, several cities throughout the country have experienced spikes of drug overdoses from illegal substances such as heroin to even marijuana which is legal in many areas throughout the country. These overdoses as of late have not been caused by users ingesting a greater quantity of the drugs, but from the drug itself being different from what they are used to. Some drug users may think they have an idea as to what their limits are when it comes to how much of a certain drug they can handle safely. Unfortunately, not all drugs are created equal, with some having a higher potency while others are might be cut with other harmful substances that can quickly cause a user to overdose. These other substances may include synthetic drugs such as Fentanyl or chemical fillers with unknown reactions when ingested. With medical staff standing by at safe injection sites, users can rest assured there will be someone there to render aid and overdose reversal drugs if needed.

Protection for users and the public

Fortunately a handful of cities throughout the United States including Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, and Philadelphia that are finally seeing the health benefits safe injections sites can offer to the public as well as drug users. Hopefully more areas of the country will accept these facilities but until then, friends and family of drug users are encouraged to keep drug reversal drugs on hand and to help their loved ones locate safe needle disposal locations in their area.

Utah Mother Arrested For Felony Child Abandonment

A Utah mother was arrested for felony child abandonment after authorities found her children to be living in deplorable circumstances.

Unsafe living conditions

39 year old Virginia Mary Martinez, a resident of the Shivwits Indian Reservation in Washington County, Utah was arrested after officers responding to a call about a loud verbal fight found Martinez living in a trashed trailer along with two small children. The young children, ages 2 and 3, were dirty and hungry with visible skin ailments due to the living conditions. The home Martinez and the children were living in was falling apart and crawling with bugs. After an investigation into the conditions at the Martinez home, the Division of Child and Family Services removed the toddlers and Martinez was arrested for child abandonment.

Child abandonment

Utah Code 76-5-109 regarding child abuse states: “Child abandonment’ means that a parent or legal guardian of a child;
• . . . Intentionally fails to make reasonable arrangements for the safety, care, and physical custody of the child; and
• . . . intentionally fails to provide the child with food, shelter, or clothing . . .
A person who commits child abandonment . . . [is] guilty of a felony of the third degree”.

Rehabilitation

Martinez is reported by a family member to have a possible drug problem and had admitted to not being able to obtain food for her children as she had no means of transportation. Now that Martinez has lost her children for an undetermined period and is behind bars, let this be an opportunity for her to obtain treatment for her addictions and hopefully be healthy enough to be reunited with her children later on. For more information on drug treatment options for those who are trying to raise children while fighting addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National helpline at 1-800-662-HELP. For legal counsel contact a criminal defense attorney.

Child Endangerment Resulting in Death

A 1 year old baby girl from Provo Utah died of a heroin overdose earlier this month and it is possible that charges for child endangerment resulting in death may follow.

Infant overdose

Photo by: Janine

Photo by: Janine

1 year old Penny Cormani died January 2 after somehow ingesting a lethal amount of heroin. The mother of the baby girl found the 1 year old unresponsive and turning purple in her crib following a routine nap. Penny was rushed to the hospital where she was pronounced dead. An autopsy performed on the child found enough heroin in her system to prove fatal along with traces of another drug, codeine.

Fault of the homeowner or the parent?

Penny’s mother stated she left the baby unattended briefly in a living room of a friend’s home which they were staying in temporarily while the mother tended to some laundry. After hearing the mother’s statement and hearing the findings of the autopsy, police searched the house and discovered several pieces of paraphernalia scattered in multiple rooms of the house. Penny’s mother and father claim the contraband belonged to the homeowners while the homeowners claim the parents were at fault. Until the investigation is complete, it isn’t clear whose paraphernalia was found in the home and all adult parties living there are potential suspects as they all have histories of drug abuse. While no one is found to be directly at fault yet, it is possible that both the parents AND the homeowners could face charges for child endangerment resulting in death because the items were located in private and shared areas.

Child endangerment resulting in death

Utah Code 76-5-112.5 states regarding child endangerment: “Unless a greater penalty is otherwise provided by law, any person who knowingly or intentionally causes or permits a child ( . . . ) to be exposed to, to ingest or inhale, or to have contact with a controlled substance, chemical substance, or drug paraphernalia ( . . . )is guilty of a felony of the third degree. “ 76-5-112.5 also states that if “a child ( . . . ) actually suffers bodily injury, substantial bodily injury, or serious bodily injury by exposure to, ingestion of, inhalation of, or contact with a controlled substance, chemical substance, or drug paraphernalia, [the person] is guilty of a felony of the second degree[. Regarding child endangerment resulting in death] unless the exposure, ingestion, inhalation, or contact results in the death of the child ( . . . ), in which case the person is guilty of a felony of the first degree.”

Five to Life

If either the parents or the homeowners are found guilty of child endangerment resulting in death for the demise of Penny Cormani, they could face five years to life in prison for a 1st degree felony. Even if authorities can’t tie the paraphernalia directly to any person, by allowing dangerous items to remain in plain view and reach in the home where Penny Cormani was staying, all adults could potentially be charged with child endangerment resulting in death. This lack of babyproofing or drugproofing the home could be “knowingly ( . . . ) permit[ing] a child to be exposed to ( . . . )a controlled substance.”

Know who you’re living with

Photo by: Mr. Theklan

Photo by: Mr. Theklan

Currently there is no proof that any of the adults in the home of Penny Cormani intentionally meant to harm her, however having paraphernalia laced with heroin laying around the house was dangerous. Prosecutors will likely make sure that someone ends up doing time for child endangerment resulting in death; The question is who? For those who are temporarily staying with friends or allow others to live in their home, it is critical to know what your roommates are doing and what they bring into the shared home. Anyone facing charges for a crime that a roommate was responsible for or for charges related to child endangerment should contact a criminal defense attorney. For information on receiving help to overcome drug abuse, contact the public health department in your area.