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San Francisco Leaders Seek To Revive Controversial Safe Injection Site Plan

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- In an effort to curb the rise of deadly overdoses happening in San Francisco, Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Matt Haney announced Thursday that they will introduce legislation to create indoor sites where people can use drugs safely.

The Overdose Prevention Programs ordinance would allow non-profit organizations to seek permits from the city's Department of Public Health to operate the facilities. The facilities would not only allow drug use, but they would also provide people access to treatment services.

Breed and Haney plan to introduce the legislation at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting.

The legislation, however, would only go into effect if the state Legislature passes and the governor signs Assembly Bill 362, allowing the city to operate a supervised safe injection site in San Francisco.

The legislation is the second attempt by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, and Assemblywoman Susan Eggman, D-Stockton, to create a safe injection site in the city. Then-Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed their first attempt.

"You see people, basically out on the streets injecting publicly," Breed said at an event at Glide Memorial Church Thursday. "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."

The San Francisco Mayor said it was "about not just the conditions that we're tired of seeing out there on the streets, this is about saving lives."

Overdose deaths have been increasing in recent years citywide, with the public health department reporting 222 overdose deaths in 2017, 259 in 2018, and 182 overdoses confirmed through just the first half of 2019, public health officials said.

"Overdoes prevention sites are not a radical idea," Haney said, adding there are about 100 overdose sites operating in 65 cities worldwide.

"In those overdoes prevention sites, not a single person has died of an overdose and thousands of people have been able to enter treatment and care," he said. "That is what we know we need here in San Francisco."

Haney added that having such sites could save the city $3.5 million annually, citing a 2017 Safe Injection Services Task Force report.

Breed, who has been a champion of safe injection sites since her time as a city supervisor, said if AB 362 is approved, she does expect pushback from the federal government.

"I do think that we have to be prepared if that were to happen, and that's why have to put the right policies in place to protect the people who are working on these permits and working for the city," she said. "It's going to be challenging, but the same happened with marijuana and look at where we are in this state and how we're still able to move forward. So I
think it's definitely worth the risk."

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