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Backers of safe injection sites say bill on Newsom's desk would provide hope, refuge

San Francisco addict says safe drug consumption sites would provide hope, refuge
San Francisco addict says safe drug consumption sites would provide hope, refuge 03:44

SAN FRANCISCO – As a bill that would legalize safe injection sites heads to Gov. Gavin Newsom's desk, an addict opens up to KPIX 5 about his struggle and why he says the sites would save lives.

Authored by State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), Senate Bill 57 would allow San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles to set up the sites, where opioid users can legally inject drugs in supervised settings and where trained staff would help prevent accidental overdoses.

"Our local communities are in crisis with people dying of overdoses on our streets, and they are coming to us and asking us for permission to do this. They're asking us for permission to save lives. It is our responsibility as a state to support our local communities and to let them try this out," Wiener said at a news conference on Wednesday.

Reporter Reed Cowan met Alex one week to the day he walked in to Walden House rehab center, hoping to conquer an addiction to meth that has sidelined his life and caused him to be alienated from family and friends. 

"I would literally be on the streets right now. I was trading my body for drugs and a place to sleep," said Alex, whose last name is being withheld to protect his privacy.

The day we met him, Alex cried about the estrangement drugs creates between himself and his family. 

Playing a piano his mother watched him learn to play in his youth, he said, "It's just little things like the piano that make me feel like I'm in my mother's arms."

"I haven't heard my mother's voice in so long and I need this place to get better and that's why I'm here," he went on to say, crying.

Alex said supervised use facilities give addicts a chance to stay alive long enough to take the many life lines that are offered at such places.

Opponents argue these sites would enable people to keep using drugs without seeking recovery, and fear this will only further promote illegal activity.

The San Francisco Police Officers' Association said in a statement, "These locations are nothing more than sanctioned drug dens that will negatively impact the residents and businesses unlucky enough to be adjacent to those sites."

"Some people say well, we shouldn't do this site, we should do treatment. No, we should do both," Wiener said. "Safe consumption sites are a proven way of getting people into treatment."

Back at the treatment center, Alex said the sites would be places where people can stay alive to hopefully make the choices to eventually get clean. 

"I'm worth saving I have a lot left to give to this world. And I want to show there is something in me that's beautiful and that there's something worthy about me. Because I feel worthy now, being here," he said.

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