Governor Walz Signs Human Services Budget Proposal with Policy Language and Funding for Overdose Prevention Centers
St. Paul, MN – Today, Governor Tim Walz signed Senate File 2934, the Human Services budget proposal. The proposal includes language mandating the Minnesota Commissioner of Human Services to “establish safe recovery sites that offer harm reductions services and supplies, including but not limited to safe injection spaces.” The proposal also includes more than $14 million in one-time funding, to be dispersed annually until 2029, for start-up and capacity-building grants to establish safe recovery sites. This funding was also included in the Governor’s biennial budget recommendations to the Minnesota Legislature.
Safe injection spaces, otherwise known as overdose prevention centers (OPCs), are proven to reduce overdose deaths and are vital to addressing the overdose death crisis. OPCs provide a safe space for people to consume pre-obtained drugs under the supervision of a trained staff, without fear of arrest. OPCS also provide access to sterile consumption equipment, overdose reversal medication, drug checking tools, and connections to critical health and social services. OPCs play a vital role as part of a larger public health approach to drug policy. They are intended to complement – not replace – existing prevention, harm reduction and treatment interventions. Most people who enter treatment don’t enter just one time and it’s important that OPCs are available to keep people alive so they get to live long enough to pursue wellness.
In response, Emily Kaltenbach, Senior Director of Criminal Legal and Policing Reform for the Drug Policy Alliance released the following statement:
“Today marks a critical turning point with Minnesota choosing a health approach over ineffective and harmful criminal approaches to respond to the overdose crisis moving forward. With a stroke of his pen, Governor Walz has taken bold and courageous action by signing SF2934, which supports and creates a pathway for the state to officially sanction the use of overdose prevention centers. Doing so recognizes the reality that people will use drugs and the need to keep them safe while providing access to addiction services and supports.
“OPCs alone won’t address all the social determinants of health that lead to problematic or risky drug use in Minnesota. While they can keep people safer, and alive, we still need to meet people’s basic needs and invest in housing, in livable wages, and in better access to health care. And we must also decriminalize drugs for personal use.
“The criminalization of drug possession is a major driver of arrests and incarceration in Minnesota. Minnesota can be the next state to instead reinvest in community supports and services. Decriminalizing drug use is the next most important step we can take right now, putting the focus back where it belongs – on centering people and public health.”