Proponents of opening supervised injection sites around Massachusetts gathered on Beacon Hill Tuesday to advocate for legislation that would create a state pilot program and to hear a presentation on how similar sites have fared in Quebec, Canada.

Richard Cloutier, an official with Quebec's Ministry of Health and Harm Reduction Services, told the assembled lawmakers and advocates that supervised injection sites, along with other programs like needle exchanges, have led to fewer overdoses and lower rates of infection with diseases transmitted by needles in the Canadian province. The program did not lead to a rise in drug use or crime, he said. About 50 supervised injection sites have been created across Canada in the past four years.

Cloutier said that in Quebec, establishing supervised injection sites had not been seen as a particularly radical undertaking. In many cases, he said, that service was simply added to already existing programs, like needle exchanges.

The sites were essentially “just a needle exchange program that was upgraded,” Cloutier said.

“People who were coming to needle exchange programs, we didn’t ask if they had drugs on themselves. We presumed they might have, but we didn’t know,” Cloutier said. He added, “With the injections supervised, we know they have, but that’s really the only difference.”

The presentation was part of a panel convened by Massachusetts State Rep. Dylan Fernandes of Falmouth, who has sponsored legislation that would create a supervised injection pilot program in Massachusetts.

In a report released in March, the state's Harm Reduction Commission found that “Supervised consumption sites are an effective harm reduction tool in the countries where they have been implemented. These sites keep people who use drugs alive and help reduce the public health risks of disease transmission.”

The report concluded that “A pilot program of one or more supervised consumption sites should be part of the Commonwealth’s efforts to combat the opioid crisis.”

Fernandes is pushing for the passage of a pilot program this year.

“Two thousand people are dying each year in Massachusetts,” Fernandes said, citing statistics from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. “People are dying, and this is a piece of the puzzle.”

“The data has proven that safe consumption sites save lives and reduce infectious diseases,” Fernandes said. “So at the end of the day, why I’m pushing for it is not for some philosophical reason. It’s that I looked at the data and the data is clear that it will save lives.”

Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone, who has stated his intention to open a supervised injection site in his city, spoke on a panel of supporters of the measure along with mothers whose children died from overdoses.

Curtatone said he had initially been skeptical of the sites, but was won over by evidence and testimony in support of supervised injection.

He told WGBH News that now he’s working on convincing skeptical residents.

“I've invited people to keep an open mind and open heart, and I've asked them to look at the data and information — not even try to convince them — and the facts speak for themselves. Safe consumption sites reduce harm and save lives,” Curtatone said.

Curtatone dismissed threats by Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling, who has said such sites would be illegal and has said his office will enforce the law if anyone attempts to open a site.

“As a public official, one of the sworn duties I have is to promote the health [and] wellbeing of everyone in the community,” Curtatone said. "We are prepared for a legal battle. We will take that on in public the way we see fit."

A recent decision by a federal judge in Philadelphia found that supervised injection sites there did not violate federal law. Curtatone called that decision good news for Massachusetts.