If you can’t stop using heroin, San Francisco is willing to violate state and federal law so you can do it safely. In July, the city plans to open two sites that will allow shooting up under secure conditions.
“I’m fully supportive of the city moving forward, just like we did with needle exchange before it was technically legal,” state Sen. Scott Wiener (D) said in a San Francisco Chronicle column. “We need to do everything in our power to keep people healthy, to get people off the streets so they’re injecting in a safe space indoors instead of on people’s doorsteps or in public parks and to make sure we can intervene quickly if they overdose.”
Intravenous drug use is against both state and federal law, but Wiener has a bill that, if passed into law, would protect anyone associated with safe injection sites from facing state charges. The Assembly passed the bill last year, but it is two votes short in the Senate and would still need Gov. Jerry Brown’s approval.
“We consider the use of clean needles as a public health issue”
Still, San Francisco isn’t waiting on the state law or worrying about Pres.Donald Trump targeting them.
“I’m more worried about people dying in our streets,” Barbara Garcia, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, said in the Chronicle article.
The total drug-overdose deaths was 64,070 in the 12 months through January 2017.” The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 27, 2017 wsj.com/usnews
“Opioids, such as fentanyl, heroin, oxycodone and hydrocodone, killed more than 34,500 people in 2016.” The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 27, 2017 wsj.com/usnews
An estimated 22,000 drug users openly shoot up in public areas, often scattering dirty needles on San Francisco sidewalks. Public Health officials expect 85 percent of San Francisco’s intravenous drug users to use the safe sites, keeping dirty needles off the streets and saving the city $3.5 million a year in medical costs. Medical and social services will also be available at the safe sites.
With 343 homicides in 2017, Baltimore “had the highest murder rate in its history, and by far the highest among the nation’s 30 largest cities,” according to The New York Times 1-17-18
The concept isn’t new. Canada, Australia and Europe provide safe injection sites. Also, cities like Seattle, Baltimore and Philadelphia are considering opening their own.
The public supports safe injection sites. A survey conducted in January by David Binder Research surveyed 500 registered city voters in English and Cantonese. They found that 67 percent of respondents back the idea while 27 percent opposed.
At San Quentin State Prison, state certified drug counselors, who once used drugs, support safe injection sites.
“Ideally we opt for total sobriety; however, we recognize that harm reduction is beneficial in the initial stages of recovery,” said Martin Walters, 50, incarcerated. He’s a California Association for Drug/Alcohol Educators (CAADE) counselor. “We consider the use of clean needles as a public health issue, like preventing AIDS, rather than addressing addiction. But, it’s a great start.”
Quinton Walker, 60, agrees. In the past he used heroin and nobody could tell him anything or do anything to get him to quit until he had a realization that the drug was going to kill him. Thereafter, he sought help and beat his addiction. Now he’s a CAADE counselor.
“I don’t think people are going to start using drugs because the needles are free,” Walker said. “I think the sites will keep people alive until they reach the point in their lives where they find hope and are ready to seek help quitting.”