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S.F. supervisor criticizes Newsom veto of safe injection sites legislation

S.F. supervisor criticizes Newsom veto of safe injection sites legislation
S.F. supervisor criticizes Newsom veto of safe injection sites legislation 02:55

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would have legalized so-called "safe injection sites" in some of the state's largest cities.  The move has angered some of the governor's supporters who say Newsom is playing politics with a public health crisis.

Look closely at the street next time you walk through San Francisco.  Needles and crushed syringes are a common sight, evidence of countless shattered lives due to the opioid epidemic.

Matt Dorsey thinks he was recently appointed to the board of supervisors because of his personal experience with what may now be the city's most pressing problem.

"I am the first member of the San Francisco board of supervisors in a generation to be openly from the substance-abuse disorder recovery community," he said. "I identify as an addict and an alcoholic. I've spent most of my adult life in recovery."

Fentanyl overdoses on the rise in communities like the Tenderloin and, though it can be counteracted with a drug called Narcan, Dorsey sys fentanyl has already taken more San Franciscans' lives than COVID-19.

"What terrifies me is there are actually synthetic opioids out there on the East Coast that are Narcan-resistant," he said.  "And, God forbid, if those come to San Francisco, we're going to see a loss of life that's worse than the AIDS crisis."

It's the reason San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles were all backing SB 57 which would have authorized supervised drug injection sites where staff would offer clean needles and monitor users for adverse reactions.

New York already has one and they claim to have prevented 283 overdoses in just five months.

But, last week, Gov. Newsom vetoed the bill, causing many to speculate that he did so to avoid harming any potential presidential campaign.

"There's such a heavy political downside to a bill like this," said Loyola University political analyst Jessica Levinson. "There isn't a big constituency in support of this or vehemently in support of this and you could imagine how the opposition ads really write themselves."

In his veto message, Newsom said an unlimited number of safe-injection sites, without an established plan or oversight, "could induce a world of unintended consequences."

Dorsey was struggling to accept that argument -- particularly from a man who had bucked public opinion in the fight to legalize same-sex marriage.

"I mean, I will take him at his word that he has an opinion on that and it was the policy that shaped his decision to veto it," he said.  "I think he was mistaken.  I think, when we're talking about a supervised consumption facility, it is, by definition, supervised."

It may be that some of the feared "unintended consequences" are political in nature but then that is the nature of politics.

Dorsey says he and others are not giving up on the idea of safe consumption sites that, they believe, can save countless lives.

In the meantime, he wants San Francisco to take a more aggressive approach to drug addiction.  To justify the expense of such an effort, Dorsey is requesting an audit by all departments to find out how much it costs the city each year to not deal with untreated drug addiction.

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