3 California cities could get safe injection sites to help fight drug overdose deaths | Nation

LOS ANGELES — A bill allowing drug users to inject safely in supervised facilities in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland passed the state Senate on Monday and is awaiting Governor Gavin Newsom’s signature.

Senator Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat who drafted SB 57, said on Twitter that safe injection sites “are a proven strategy to save lives (and) get people into treatment. It’s time.”

The bill would allow the three cities to operate overdose prevention programs through 2028 and provide a hygienic site where people can inject pre-obtained drugs. The sites would include sterilized supplies, trained staff, and referrals to substance use disorder treatment programs. Staff would also be trained and authorized to administer an opioid antagonist.

Before implementing the program, the three cities should give local public health officials, law enforcement and the public the opportunity to voice their opinions on the program at a public meeting. The organization running the program should also provide an annual report to the city or county.

Individuals participating in the program would be exempt from professional discipline, civil liability and existing criminal penalties for good faith conduct and actions in the overdose prevention program. The California Medical Board and California Osteopathic Medical Board would still be authorized to take disciplinary action against licensed medical professionals.

California lawmakers have responded to a spike in fentanyl overdoses and deaths exacerbated by the pandemic. As fentanyl addiction has become one of the nation’s most pressing public health crises, overdose deaths in the United States have soared to more than 100,000 in a one-year period ending April 2021, an increase of nearly 30% compared to the 78,000 deaths for the year. before, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

California is also grappling with fatal overdoses. Los Angeles County saw a 48% increase in the first five months of the pandemic compared to the same period in 2019, according to the county’s public health department. San Francisco also reported 297 accidental overdose deaths from January 2022 to June 2022. The California Department of Public Health recorded 3,946 fentanyl-related deaths in 2020.

Fentanyl is a highly addictive synthetic opioid used in medical settings to treat extreme pain. The drug is up to 100 times more potent than morphine, making it highly dangerous outside of medical settings, according to the US Drug Enforcement Administration. The drug is sometimes added to heroin to make it more potent, and many people who believe they are buying heroin are unaware that they are actually buying fentanyl, often resulting in overdose deaths.

The safe injection sites, which are operated in Switzerland, Canada and eight other countries, allow users to inject themselves while providing treatment and social services, including housing.

A nearly identical bill from Congresswoman Susan Eggman, D-Stockton, was forwarded to the then Governor. Jerry Brown’s office, but he turned it down because he feared medical professionals and local authorities would face federal criminal charges by opening safe injection sites.

Last year, New York became the first city in the United States to open a safe injection site.

During the campaign trail, Newsom said he was “open” to the idea of ​​safe injection sites, but did not endorse Eggman’s proposal outright.

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Bernard P. Love