Date February 14, 2024
Media Contact

Brown researchers launch resource to educate public about overdose prevention centers

With two publicly recognized overdose prevention centers open in New York and the nation’s third expected to open in Rhode Island, the project includes recent research about the centers to answer questions and address misconceptions.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Citing the growing need for accurate, unbiased, up-to-date information about overdose prevention centers, researchers at the Brown University School of Public Health have created a set of resources to educate the public about these harm-reduction efforts. The project launches as two organizations in Rhode Island prepare to open the first state-authorized overdose prevention center in the nation and the first publicly recognized programs outside of New York City.

Starting on Wednesday, Feb. 14, any person interested in learning more about overdose prevention centers can visit to access an abundance of information, including a regularly updated, searchable database of all research papers published on overdose prevention centers from 2010 to 2023, plus printable fact sheets about laws and policy, cost effectiveness, health impacts and more.

Public curiosity about overdose prevention centers (which are often referred to as safe injection sites) has significantly increased since the country’s first two centers opened in New York in 2021, said project leader Brandon Marshall, chair of epidemiology at the School of Public Health and a prominent researcher of overdose prevention centers.

Marshall, founder of the school’s People, Place and Health Collective, said his research team receives frequent requests from policymakers, journalists and advocates for information about overdose prevention centers and research on their effectiveness.

“When we were first discussing this project, we saw an urgent need for information to be accessible to all of these audiences — a one-stop-shop for clear, accurate, up-to-date information and scientific research,” Marshall said.

While the site is a repository of international data (given that most of these centers exist only in other nations), it will have specific relevance to Rhode Islanders, Marshall noted, as plans move forward to open an overdose prevention center in Providence later this year.  Marshall is part of a team of researchers from Brown and NYU Langone Health who are evaluating the effectiveness of these centers and the impacts on surrounding communities.

“This field is evolving very quickly as there are more sanctioned OPCs,” Marshall said. “A major focus of will be identifying, collating and disseminating U.S. research emerging from our team and others studying this harm reduction strategy to address the overdose crisis in the U.S.”

Everyone in the U.S. is affected by the overdose crisis on some level, said Abdullah Shihipar, a research associate with the People, Place and Health Collective who is helping to oversee the project.

“This information hub contextualizes the overdose crises and explains what overdose prevention centers are and what they do, while providing current information and evidence-based research,” Shihipar said. “This is not an advocacy site; while our team believes that overdose prevention centers save lives, that opinion is informed by data and research.”

In addition to the English-language site, there will be versions in Spanish and Mandarin, which are not only two of the most-spoken languages in the U.S., Shihipar said, but are also the languages spoken by people in the areas where the overdose prevention centers are located in New York and could be located in other states.

A future phase of the project will include video and audio tours as well as photos of brick-and-mortar centers. The Brown team is partnering with the organizations tasked with running the overdose prevention centers, OnPoint in New York City and Project Weber/RENEW and VICTA in Providence, to create these interactive materials.

“The goal is to give the public a better idea of what these centers actually look like because there are so few models in the U.S. and so many misconceptions of what overdose prevention centers are and how they work,” Marshall said.

The project is supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health through Rhode Island Hospital’s Center of Biomedical Research Excellence on Opioids and Overdose, as well as from Vital Strategies, a global public health organization committed to equitable and sustainable reductions in fatal overdose and other preventable deaths.