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San Francisco Officials Approve Controversial Safe Injection Sites; Await State Approval

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) - San Francisco supervisors have unanimously approved an ordinance creating an Overdose Prevention Program in the city, also known as a safe injection site, in an effort to prevent overdose deaths.

Safe injection sites have been attempted before in the city, however, the idea got canned back in 2018 after then-Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed Assembly Bill 186, which would've authorized the sites, citing concerns about enabling drug use.

Additionally, Brown cited concerns about the bill's legality, which would have afforded immunity under state law but not under federal law, meaning city officials and health care professionals involved would have been vulnerable to prosecution by federal authorities.

But with state Assembly Bill 362 now in the works, which would allow the city to operate overdoes prevention programs, Haney and co-author Mayor London Breed are hopeful the program will soon become a reality.

"This is something San Francisco must do as soon as possible. It will get drug use off of our streets. It will get people into treatment and care and services, and ultimately it will save lives," Haney said during the meeting.

"San Francisco has a very strong and long history of creating innovative programs to provide access to syringes, to prevent HIV, hepatitis C and other infectious diseases," he said.

"Safe consumption sites save lives," Breed said in a statement. "They help prevent overdoses, reduce public drug use, prevent the spread of disease, and connect people to medical care that can help treat their addiction. We need one or more of these sites in our city, and this legislation creates a path for nonprofit providers to apply to operate one of these life-saving facilities."

In the city, overdose deaths are rising, with 222 in 2017, 259 in 2018 and 330 in 2019, according to data from the city's Department of Public Health.

More than 100 safe injection sites have already been implemented in other places around the world, like Europe and Canada, and have been shown to prevent overdose deaths, reduce the spread of diseases such as Hepatitis C and HIV, and help get users into programs in places like drug treatment centers.

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

© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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