3 CA cities could soon legalize safe injection sites but some think they would 'normalize' drug use

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ByLuz Pena via KGO logo
Thursday, August 4, 2022
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A bill legalizing safe drug injection sites in presence of trained staff is headed to Newsom's desk, but some say it would 'normalize' drug use.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A bill allowing drug users to inject themselves in the presence of trained staff is headed to Governor Newsom's desk.

It's a controversial bill that would legalize a pilot program for safe injection sites to open in San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles. State Senator Scott Wiener is behind it.

"They can use there and not in front of people. They can be offered treatment and recovery services. We can make sure that they are not using dirty needles. So we can reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis," said Sen. Scott Wiener.

SB57 highlights one of the most urgent public health crisis in the country: fentanyl overdoses. According to the latest San Francisco medical examiners data, over 200 people have died in the city from a drug overdose in 2022.

VIDEO: Video shows severity of SF's drug crisis as children try to navigate past users

Senator Wiener believes opening a space where drugs can be used under supervision will prevent overdoses.

"It's a model that has been in effect for 30 years around the world in Europe, Canada and Australia. They've had very positive results. Not a single person has ever died an overdose death in one of these sites," said Senator Wiener.

But Jacqui Berlinn says a safe injection site is a mistake. Her son Corey is addicted to fentanyl and lives on the streets of San Francisco. Jacqui is the co-founder of Mother's Against Drug Deaths.

"It's really frustrating to me because I feel like we are normalizing drug use with our children. They are seeing this all around them and specially with safe consumption sites it's going to bring more addicts into the area," said Berlinn and added, "They are building this community of 'it's okay to use all the time' and I'm not trying to stigmatize anybody, but the drugs that are on our streets are so deadly that it shouldn't be okay."

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Jacqui wants the state to focus on resources to help addicts recover instead of what she says is enabling more drug use even if it's supervised.

Gary McCoy with HealthRIGHT 360 says more rehab center are necessary but they're short staffed. He views SB57 as a path to treatment.

"SB57 will definitely benefit the city and county of San Francisco not only in lives lost to overdose, giving us another tool to prevent overdose deaths but also in savings. In savings to the healthcare system that is already impacted and currently understaffed," said Gary McCoy, Health Right 360's director of policy and public affairs.

This legislation has been introduced multiple times in California. It passed in 2018 in a previous form and then it was rejected by then Governor Jerry Brown.

If signed by Gov. Newsom, it would go into effect January 1 of 2023.

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