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San Francisco Mayor Embraces Safe Drug Injection Sites Following State Senate Vote

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- San Francisco is now looking to stop addicts from using drugs in the street, opting instead to give them a safe place to shoot up.

The goal for these safe injection sites is to put an end to people doing drugs openly in highly public places, such as BART stations. At these sites--some already exist in cities like Vancouver, British Columbia--trained staff take drug users out of the public eye and seek to get them into treatment.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed says these centers may also help clean up the city's image. "The conditions of our streets are unacceptable--the needles, people shooting up publicly," said Breed.

This week, the idea of city-sponsored drug sites took a decisive step forward when the state Senate voted to approve a three-year pilot program for a city-run center. The state Assembly has already passed its version last year and the bill goes back to the Assembly for a final vote.

"I am so excited. It's just another step further to getting us where we need to be in order to open one here," said Breed.

However, one group is not so eager to embrace the idea of safe injection sites: the San Francisco Police Officers' Association. Tony Montoya, the president of the organization, applauded the city for their forward thinking, but he had some other gripes with the idea of safe injection sites.

"These places have become a magnet, not only for the addicts themselves, but also for the people who fuel the addiction by selling narcotics to them," said Montoya.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who could be California's next governor, was more receptive to the concept. "I'm open to it. I think it's a novel strategy," he said.

Still, the legality safe injection sites remains an issue. While California may go for open use of heroin and other drugs, the use of such substances is still in violation of federal law. But this doesn't matter to Breed.

"The president might crack down on us. So be it," Breed said. "I'm here to do a job, and this is part of my job."

Later this month at Glide Memorial Church, the city will be installing a model for an injection center to test how one would work. Of course, there will be no drugs or any users shooting up inside, at least until the state law passes and is signed by the Gov. Jerry Brown.

These centers will require immense medical costs for staff (doctors and nurses) as well as legal costs to fend off federal prosecutors, but  Breed and the city seem ready to pay whatever it takes.


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