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Are Safe Injection Sites The Solution To The Drug OD Crisis?

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) -- Lora Schroeder's daughter Sammi struggled with drug addiction for years. At 25, she died of an accidental heroin overdose.

"I was taught early that drugs are bad, and people that use drugs are bad. But I knew in my heart that my daughter was not bad," Schroeder said at a news conference at the State Capitol International Overdose Awareness Day. "Sammi's death has taught me how precious life is. It has opened my mind" to a new approach to fighting drug addiction and overdose, which is now the leading cause of accidental death in America (and in California).

Schroeder is lobbying for AB186, a bill that would let eight California counties—including San Francisco, Alameda, Santa Cruz and San Joaquin—establish a pilot program of Safe Consumption Services.

Under SCS, local governments would create "safe houses" that let addicts use drugs in a safe and controlled environment, instead of on the streets.

"We have a real crisis on our hands," said State Senator Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco. "It's a public health issue and we need to treat it that way."

The bill, by Assemblymember Susan Eggman of Stockton, has already passed the State Assembly. Wiener hopes to shepherd it to Senate passage by the end of next week.

Critics say it will create government-run "shooting galleries" in their neighborhoods, but Wiener says addicts are already shooting up on the streets all over California's biggest cities.

"We have a problem right now," he said. "People are injecting in our neighborhoods right now. People are leaving syringes in our neighborhoods right now. We should all much rather have these folks in a supervised, healthy setting."

Other countries, including Canada, are already using the SCS approach. San Francisco and Seattle could pioneer the idea in this country. The other counties included in the bill are Los Angeles, Fresno, Mendocino and Humboldt. Governor Brown has not said whether he would sign the bill into law.

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