Mayor London Breed and District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney are both backing a new local ordinance that would allow permitting for non-profits to open safe-injection sites in San Francisco — something that still needs the blessing of statewide legislation before it can happen.
Safe-injection sites — where intravenous drug users can come in off the streets to use drugs in a clean and safe environment — remain controversial and have tended to spark federal- and local-level backlash whenever they've been proposed. Denver's city council approved one two years ago that has yet to take shape. And just yesterday the city of Philadelphia announced that an approved safe-injection facility there has being killed off following pushback from residents and area lawmakers.
Breed, who's long talked about how drug abuse impacted her own family, has been championing safe-injection sites for years now. Back in May 2017, before she was mayor, Breed helped launch a task force to create a report to analyze the potential for creating "safe consumption services" in SF, and that task force's final report called for multiple safe-injection sites in the city.
According to the report, just one safe-injection site can produce an array of public health benefits including 415 fewer annual hospital stays, a decrease in HIV cases, fewer cases of Hepatitis C, and $3.5 million in net savings. Also, it's a way to soft-pedal drug users into rehab — counseling services are made available onsite without judgment or penalty for using onsite. As Breed said three years ago, "We need a one-stop shop of wraparound services that provide hope for a healthier life and opportunities for rehabilitation."
At an event Thursday at Glide Memorial Church, per KPIX, Breed said, "You see people, basically out on the streets injecting publicly. You see people who are using the foil and the system to use fentanyl and other things that are out there. Just imagine them walking through this door and getting a space where they’re doing it inside, where it’s contained and where they’re around people who basically are treating them with respect and making it clear to them that as soon as they are ready, we are there to help them. That’s what this is about."
As the Examiner explains, the local legislation proposed by Breed and Haney would allow the Department of Public Health to issue permits to non-profits to open safe-injections sites in the city next year, after the state potentially gives the city the go-ahead to do so.
Former SF supervisor turned state Senator Scott Wiener has also been championing safe-injection sites for some time. And a state bill that would have allowed a pilot program for one in San Francisco was vetoed by former Governor Jerry Brown in September 2018.
Wiener and Assemblywoman Susan Eggman (D-Stockton) are now supporting a new bill, AB-362, that they hope to get through the legislature and signed by Governor Newsom this year.
At Thursday's event, per KPIX, Supervisor Matt Haney echoed Breed's thoughts saying, "Overdose prevention sites are not a radical idea... In those overdose prevention sites [around the world], not a single person has died of an overdose and thousands of people have been able to enter treatment and care."
Citing federal pushback about local marijuana legislation, Breed says that a safe-injection site ordinance is "worth the risk" of federal-level backlash.