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Veto derails plans for San Francisco safe injection site

San Francisco will not get a chance to pilot a three-year program that would have a provided a safe place for people to inject drugs.

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed Assembly Bill 186, sponsored by Assemblywoman Susan Eggman, D-Stockton and co-authored by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, said in a statement that there more disadvantages than benefits of the bill:

“Fundamentally, I do not believe that enabling illegal drug use in a government sponsored injections centers — with no corresponding requirement that the user undergo treatment — will reduce drug addiction.”

The bill would have allowed The City to provide a safe, clean, site that would be supervised with medical professionals where people can use drugs they’ve obtained themselves.

In August, city and health officials launched mock safe injection site of how a site could potentially look like and how staff would operate the site. The mock site was displayed at Glide Memorial United Methodist Church
While the bill required the site to provide referrals substance abuse treatment centers, medical services, mental health services and social services, the services would not be forced upon users unless requested by them.

Brown said that though the bill creates an immunity under the state law, it does not keep the site safe from federal officials who have already said they will legal action on anyone who operates a government sponsored drug injection site.

Advocates for safe injection sites say they work and provide a safe place for drug users and place where they can receive medical treatment right away if a person overdosed.

Breed visited a safe injection site in Vancouver and said was impressed on how staff operated the site.

Critics of safe injection sites said they would encourage drug use and drug use would increase in cities.

Breed said in a statement that she was disappointed in Brown’s decision:

“Safe injection sites save lives. If we are going to prevent overdoses and connect people to services and treatment that they badly need to stop using drugs in the first place, we need safe injection sites. If we are going to stop the drug use we see in public every day and get the needles off our streets, we need proven public health solutions. We have seen these sites work in cities in other countries, and we know they not only save lives, but they can save our city money by reducing costs for health care and emergency services.”

Wiener said the veto is a lost opportunity that the opioid epidemic needs “forward-looking, progressive solutions” and to allow federal threats stop The City from helping people injecting on the streets:

“The status quo is not working. We have a terrible problem of heroin and meth addiction, with far too much public injection.”

Brown said there is no quick fix to solving the opioid crisis:

“A comprehensive effort at the local and state level is required. Fortunately, under the Affordable Care Act, California now has federal money to support a much expanded system of care for the addicted. That’s the route we should follow: involving many parties and many elements in a thoroughly integrated undertaking.”

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