Addiction & Overdose

Business owners support sharing neighborhood with overdose prevention sites

May 26, 2023

In 2019, Bloomberg Professor Susan Sherman and her team began examining the experiences business owners and managers had with people who use drugs. They also asked about their attitudes towards overdose prevention programs in Baltimore City and County, two jurisdictions with the highest fatal overdose rates in Maryland.  

The team started by mapping opioid-related arrests in Baltimore City and County, and identifying businesses located in arrest hot spots. They then selected diverse businesses to interview about their experiences with people who use drugs in their businesses, knowledge of the opioid and overdose epidemics, attitudes about interventions such as syringe services programs, and reactions to evidence on the impact of specific interventions. These interviews were used to create an anonymous survey of business owners and managers. They conducted the surveys and analyzed the results.  

The researchers found:  

  • High support for overdose prevention sites, with 65% of employees, managers, and business owners supporting an overdose prevention site in the same neighborhood as their business, and 80% supporting one elsewhere in the city.  
  • 62% of participants said they would more likely support overdose prevention sites if other services were co-located, including referrals to housing, treatment, and STI screening.  
  • Support was higher among those who lived near their work and those who reported finding drugs or witnessing an overdose in the past six months.  
  • The disparity between support for overdose prevention sites locally, versus elsewhere in the city, is consistent with trends in the “not in my back yard” phenomenon noted elsewhere.  

Business owners can be key advocates in the development of overdose prevention sites. Understanding their experiences and concerns can inform how to best request their support for harm reduction interventions and address any concerns and opposition. This is the first study to ascertain overdose prevention sites support in Baltimore’s business community.  

Their findings were published in the Journal of Urban Health in 2022.  

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