Safe injection sites in San Francisco closer to fruition after State Senate vote

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) Safe injection sites, facilities where individuals can use controlled substances under the supervision of trained staff, are closer to reality in San Francisco.

On Tuesday, the California Senate passed Assembly Bill 186, which would allow San Francisco to implement the sites under a three-year pilot program, according to the office of Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco.

Weiner co-authored the bill along with Assemblymember Susan Eggman, D-Stockton, Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, and Assemblymember Laura Friedman, D-Glendale.

The State Assembly passed AB 186 last year, marking the first time a legislative body in the U.S. has passed such a bill.

Following the Senate passage with 21 votes, the bill now goes back to the Assembly to agree on Senate amendments. If the Assembly approves the amendments, the bill will move to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk for his signature.

A longtime supporter of the idea, San Francisco Mayor London Breed said in a statement, "Safe injection sites save lives by preventing overdoes and connecting people to life-saving services. I am committed to opening one of these sites here in San Francisco, no matter what it takes, because the 
status quo is not acceptable. 

"By doing so, we will help people who suffer from severe addiction get the help and services they need while reducing public drug use and discarded needles on our streets."

Wiener said, "We have a terrible problem of heroin and meth addiction, with far too much public drug injection. This public health epidemic calls for forward-looking progressive solutions. The status quo 
isn't working. People are injecting drugs whether or not we intervene. They're injecting on our sidewalks and parks, in transit stations and alleyways and on people's front steps."

Wiener added, "Safe injection sites provide people with an opportunity to inject in a clean, safe environment, with healthcare personnel available to prevent overdoses, and with an opportunity to offer people addiction, healthcare, housing and other services."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading cause of accidental deaths nationwide is from drug overdose.

The push for safe injecting spaces comes in response to a growing and highly visible drug crisis, which has resulted in overdose deaths and public complaints about needle litter and people injecting drugs in public.

In places such as Canada and Europe, safe injecting sites have been shown to prevent overdose deaths, reduce the spread of diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV, and help get users into services including drug treatment programs.

In September 2017, a task force led by then-Supervisor Breed released a report which estimated the city could save around $3.5 million a year by opening a safe injection site because of reduced healthcare costs and increased drug treatment uptake.

"I'm grateful to the State Senate for understanding the urgent necessity to take action, and for giving San Francisco the green light to move forward and save lives," Laura Thomas, interim state director for the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement. "We've been talking about the need for these services in San Francisco for over a decade. It's time to take action."

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