One of Colorado’s top Republicans is crediting conservative radio station KNUS for being instrumental in stopping a program aimed at saving the lives of drug addicts.
But another conservative host at a competing radio station is calling out Colorado Republicans for “basically” lying in an effort to “turn people against” safe injection sites, where addicts can use street-purchased drugs under the supervision of medical personnel.
“I saw an email that was going around from the Republican Party in the state of Colorado…that was exceptionally misleading in the data that they used to try to turn people against Safe Injection Sites,” said KHOW 630-AM morning host Ross Kaminsky Feb. 20.
“But basically, they lied to do it. So that bothers me.”
Kaminsky, a Libertarian, said on air that he pays “very, very close attention” to “making sure data is properly used and read the proper way.”
The radio host didn’t say which specific GOP email he was referring to, but Colorado Republican Party sent an email Feb. 4 promoting what turned out to be an extremely misleading presentation on safe injection sites with speakers from KNUS 710-AM,
The GOP email stated:
- Since Vancouver’s first injection site in 2003, British Columbia’s overdose deaths have increased by more than 725%.
- Overdose deaths of British Columbians 10 – 18 years old are up 260%.
- The number of heroin users in Vancouver is up from 4,700 overall in 2000 to over 7,300 at just one of the six injection sites in 2017.
“And one of the things that – unfortunately – the state GOP sent out was something saying – among other things –that there was a huge increase in overdose deaths in Vancouver after the Safe Injection Site was opened in 2003. And if you just read that literally, it’s true: there was a huge spike in overdose deaths after 2003 when this site was opened. The thing is, it wasn’t immediately after 2003. There wasn’t a huge spike in overdose deaths until, like, 2011, at least. So, when this site opened in 2003, there was no noticeable change in overdose deaths for the entire state of British Columbia […] for quite a few years.”
In an email to a listener, Kaminsky agreed with experts who say the spike in overdose deaths is due to the use of Fentanyl from China. He cited overdose data and wrote:
Kaminsky: “So it’s true that deaths are way up since 2003. But they were not up in any significant way from 2003 to 2010. So attributing the increase to SIS is a lie.
Furthermore, heroin use is up everywhere in recent years.”
On his Next with Kyle Clark Show Feb. 19, 9News anchor Kyle Clark asked Colorado’s Republican House Minority Leader, Patrick Neville, about the data that Neville and other Republicans had been using in their anti-SIS campaign.
“You’ve said that supervised injection sites increase overdose deaths,” 9News anchor Kyle Clark asked GOP State House Minority Leader Patrick Neville this week. “What evidence do you have that these sites caused increased overdoses?”
“Well, I think you can look at Vancouver’s coroner report, and you actually see a dramatic 750 percent increase in overdose deaths since the first site appeared,” said Neville. “Although there might not be actual causation in that report. There is certainly correlation.”
“Then why are you saying there’s causation,” asked Clark.
“Well, I said that the reports have showed that this hasn’t worked out for Vancouver,” replied Neville.
“You said that the sites result in increased overdose deaths,” replied Clark. “That’s causation. I’m asking you, do you have evidence?”
“Their policies have resulted overall in a worse epidemic that’s actually went on in Vancouver, and I would also say that they can’s also certainly show causation that these sites have prevented more overdose deaths because the results show that we’ve actually seen more overdose results,” Neville responded.
“Just to be clear, I’ve asked you if you have proof of your statement, and your answer is, ‘You can’t prove the opposite?” asked Clark.
“There’s causation and correlation,” replied Neville. “It’s hard to prove either one of those. But I would say from Vancouver’s own coroner’s reports show it’s certainly not working in Vancouver.”
“And that spike did not happen when the sites opened,” said Clark. “It happened when Fentanyl came into Vancouver, which is just nasty stuff…So I know you take offense to the fact that Democratic supporters of safe injection sites say that you are fear-mongering. But when you make a statement, like that these sites increase overdose deaths, and you don’t have evidence to back it up, is that not fear mongering?”
“No, it’s truth telling,” replied Neville. “What we’ve seen in Vancouver is exactly that. A 750 percent increase. So these policies haven’t worked for Vancouver. I don’t think they are going to work for Colorado. “
Overdose deaths have spiked across North America, in Denver and other cities, where there are no Safe Injection Sites.
Even in areas, like Vancouver, where overall overdose deaths are increasing, studies show that the SIS sites save lives. So cities with SIS sites likely have fewer overdose deaths than they would have without them.
Kaminsky isn’t in favor of government-run SIS sites. And he’s ambivalent about it as a “private limited-duration experiment.”
“I do believe in allowing some local experimentation especially by private citizens trying to help others,” wrote Kaminsky in an email. “But I think it’s almost impossible to imagine a scenario in which heroin is decriminalized enough by the federal government in the next few years that such an experiment would be feasible.”
Kaminsky explained his view in more detail below:
I do not believe that the prohibition mentality works, or has ever worked, to substantially reduce drug use in America or anywhere else. I would like to see more local experimentation – which is really the political purpose of the governmental structure of the United States and why we should have a much smaller and weaker federal government than we have – along the lines of what Portgual has done which is to expend resources toward treatment rather than punishment. It appears to be saving lives AND money. I understand the views of my more conservative listeners who find it hard to get past what they see as rewarding what they see as bad behavior.
As a libertarian, my feeling about it is, if I may offer a bad analogy, somewhat similar to how I think about abortion: it would be better if it didn’t exist but people should be free to make their own choices about their own bodies (with abortion, to be clear, I do support limitations on late-term abortions when viability is extremely likely), and because many Americans believe those choices to be immoral, government should not be in the business of funding organizations which provide services to the people who make those choices. I also believe that government funding is not necessary. Sadly we live in a world where the left has made Americans believe that nothing can get done without government and that Americans are not caring or charitable in our capacities as individual humans and citizens. (I think that’s very wrong, though I think the left has a political goal in making people believe such things.) I believe there would be plenty of private funding for a Safe Injection Site and furthermore I believe that a privately funded site will be more careful with spending money than a taxpayer-funded site would be. (See Milton Friedman’s comments about the four ways people spend money: their own money on themselves, their own money on someone else, someone else’s money on themselves, and someone else’s money on someone else. The key takeaway is that the last of these represents government, and it represents the case in which the person spending the money cares neither about the quality nor the price of what is purchased.)
Finally, I don’t believe it is the proper role of government to experiment far beyond the tolerance of the citizenry, but I think private citizens can do almost any experiment they want which doesn’t violate the rights of others. (This a philosophical point, not a legal one.) The issue with SIS is that even as a private experiment it is very likely to have externalities that impact at least the nearby community. That’s why it is important that the first time this is done, it should be a limited duration privately-funded experiment that automatically ends unless whatever thresholds are met to show that the benefits exceed the costs – which itself will be difficult to manage in the sense that the definitions of benefits and of costs in this scenario will themselves be controversial. I can imagine a situation in which an experiment would pass such a test, and a situation in which it wouldn’t. Which is why it would be an experiment.