City officials push for new approach that gets open drug use off San Francisco streets

If San Francisco Mayor London Breed's proposal goes according to plan, come spring of 2022, a building and lot located at Geary Boulevard and Hyde Street will be the city’s first location where users can consume drugs under the supervision of medical professionals.

"I think this situation has become critical and urgent enough that I believe that the mayor is saying, Look, we have to do something. We can't let San Franciscans die. And so we have to respond," said Vitka Eisen, CEO of HealthRight 360.

Eisen cited numbers that show between January and September of 2021, 500 people died in San Francisco of drug overdoses, a just one reason that the injection sites are needed.

"They have no other negative outcomes. These sites also save lives. I mean, they save lives and they save money," said Eisen.

The latest development coming weeks after Supervisor Matt Haney introduced a resolution and received unanimous support that called on Mayor Breed to declare a state of emergency around the city’s drug overdose crisis.

"For people who are using drugs out there on the streets and sidewalks and dying by the hundreds of safe injection sites can save lives. It can get them in the care and treatment," said Haney, who is running for a state assembly seat.

MORE: San Francisco supervisors unanimously approve legislation for safe-injection sites

Open drug use and what comes with it in certain parts of San Francisco is nothing new and is by all accounts a problem desperate for a solution.

Still, some aren’t convinced a sanctioned injection site is the answer.

"There’s has to be a different way of dealing with the crisis," said Tom Wong, who is in charge of security of a building next to the proposed site. "You will have lines down trying to get in here because this is a safe spot and they may or may not wait because they’re addicted and they need that fix."

Wong believes the issue can only be solved through stopping those who pedal the drugs.

But Eisen with the non-profit HealthRight 360 believes the heavy-handed approach has already been tried and doesn't work.

"We know it's a failed policy. So we have to do innovative things. If we want it, we want a different outcome. We have to do something different," said Eisen.

Objections from residents aside, a legal issue could torpedo the mayor’s proposal. Such a site isn’t legal under federal law.

Mayor Breed’s office is said to be in contact with City Attorney David Chiu, who would ultimately have to defend the city, should the government take action.