Bill to legalize safe injection sites in California heads to Newsom’s desk

Public health advocates have helped push forward a bill that would create sites for drug addicts to use in a supervised and safe setting.

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) — A bill to legalize safe injection sites to address public health crises such as the spread of HIV and drug overdoses has passed both houses of the Assembly California legislature.

Drafted by State Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco, Senate Bill 57 calls for supervised injection sites modeled after facilities that have been active in some US cities for decades. Several studies indicate that sites can reduce overdoses of addictive substances.

Supervised injection facilities would allow people to inject or smoke drugs under medical supervision in sterile conditions. The sites would not allow the trading of illegal narcotics and should reduce overdoses caused by substances like fentanyl, heroin and methamphetamine and prevent the spread of diseases like hepatitis and HIV.

If approved, San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles could operate the sites, which would also allow people to access addiction treatment and health resources.

It’s an initiative that harm reduction advocates have been calling for for years. State nonprofits, such as the Alameda County HIV Education and Prevention Project, have previously worked to establish mobile sites to provide clean needles and safe disposal of used needles. , offering free HIV and hepatitis C testing, and dealing with growing overdose crises like the one seen in San Fransisco.

The California Society of Addictive Medicine (CSAM), which represents doctors who care for people with substance use disorders, has also sponsored the legislation to draw attention to what they say is a need. of safe service centers to help prevent overdoses and provide medical information to people. struggling with addiction.

Recorded opioid-related deaths in Alameda County through 2020, as recorded by the state’s Opioid Overdose Surveillance Dashboard. (Alameda County HIV Education and Prevention Project/Courthouse News)

More than 10,000 people in California and more than 100,000 people nationwide have died from overdoses on the streets, at parties or at home, according to NPR. There were 191 fatal opioid drug overdoses in Alameda County in 2021, according to the state Department of Public Health’s Overdose Dashboard. This number does not include non-fatal overdoses requiring the use of the drug Narcan, used in emergency situations to treat opioid overdoses.

“If Governor Newsom signs this bill, it will not only save countless lives from needless death, but also create a pathway to treatment for thousands of Californians for whom there is currently little hope of a cure,” said David Kan, former president of CSAM, in a statement.

Women Organized to Respond to Life-Threatening Diseases (WORLD), an Oakland-based nonprofit prevention organization, posted on Twitter that the law is needed because “safe consumption sites will save so many lives in California. As an organization that raises awareness daily in Oakland, we see firsthand how many people will benefit from these proven treatment and prevention programs. The band did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Wiener took to Twitter to note that New York City opened its safe drinking sites last year. “They were a hit,” he wrote. “So much so that Mayor Adams wants them to be open 24 hours a day so public drug use doesn’t increase when they close. These sites work.

According to Politico, Newsom came out “very, very open” to politics during his 2018 campaign, unlike his predecessor, Gov. Jerry Brown, who vetoed a similar bill. San Francisco has a promoter in Mayor London Breed – although his recently chosen replacement for ousted District Attorney Chesa Boudin, Brooke Jenkins, has called for tougher sentences for drug addicts and street dealers in the city’s Tenderloin neighborhood .

Senate Republicans, who all voted no on SB 57, want Newsom to veto the bill.

Senate Republican Leader Scott Wilk of Santa Clarita called the bill “one of the most dangerous pieces of legislation I’ve seen sent to the governor,” adding, “Leaving people on the streets in the misery, rather than helping them, shows zero compassion.”

If the bill comes into force, the pilot sites will operate until January 1, 2027.

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