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Harm reduction

Safer Inside coalition calls for immediate action on safe consumption sites in response to SB 57 delay

Coalition members say the delay of SB 57 -- the safe consumption site bill -- will cost lives as overdose deaths continue to rise.

SAN FRANCISCO, July 7, 2021–Safer Inside–a coalition of community organizations, health agencies, activists, and community members–calls for immediate action by city and state leaders on overdose prevention strategies after the delay of Senate Bill 57 in the state legislature. SB 57 (authored by Senator Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco) would allow San Francisco, Oakland, and L.A. to pilot safe consumption sites in order to combat the rising rate of deaths by overdose. The bill was passed in the Senate in April 2021 but will not be heard in the Assembly Health Committee until January, 2022. 

Safer Inside coalition members contributed the following statements about the delay of SB 57.  

“712 people died of overdose last year. Looking at the number of the current overdose deaths suggests more will die this year. Each one of those people is someone’s friend, son, daughter, aunt, parent. If we could save just one of those lives, it would all be worth it. It is time for San Francisco to be bold and open these evidence-based interventions that saves peoples lives and connects them to vital services including treatment. Open overdose prevention sites now and save lives!” —Lydia Bransten, Executive Director of The Gubbio Project 

“The postponement of SB 57 brings further urgency to the need to address the overdose crisis that our community faces every day. Alongside my colleagues, we urge San Francisco’s leadership to take immediate and effective action to provide safe consumption services for all drug users. Multiple sites across the city are necessary to address the increasing health needs of all drug users, and they are required now. Additionally, we need legal protection for individuals staffing these sites and the participants who use them, and we need them now. Without appropriate action, we will continue to lose our neighbors, friends, and family members.” –Juliana DePietro, Director of Harm Reduction Services, GLIDE 

“By postponing Scott Wiener’s Overdose Prevention Programs bill, SB 57, politicians in Sacramento are guilty of a shocking dereliction of duty that will delay an urgent and essential public health response to the current unprecedented overdose crisis that is tragically killing an average of 2 people per day in San Francisco. The immediate impact of delaying the bill ensures that overdose deaths will now continue to rise. At best, this is misguided politicking, at worst it shows a disturbing indifference to the value of the lives of individuals who use drugs – which is a demographic that is often disposable, or considered “too risky to touch” by calculating politicians. In these times of skyrocketing fatal overdoses, this alone should be reason enough to support this proven intervention. Overdose Prevention Programs reduce the spread of communicable infectious diseases, such as HIV and viral Hepatitis, and connect people to substance use treatment and other health and social services. These services benefit not only the individuals who would use them, but the community as a whole. They are highly cost effective, saving millions of dollars in averted deaths and hospital visits. This is not the time for inaction, or a lack of courage to do the right thing – the most vulnerable members of our community, individuals who are living with substance use disorders/mental health issues, and those who love and care for them deserve better.” — Vitka Eisen, MSW, Ed.D, President and Chief Executive Officer of HealthRIGHT 360. 

“San Francisco was an exemplary city in its response to COVID-19, and it has the opportunity to continue being a leader in its response to the overdose epidemic, especially when the lives of so many San Franciscans are at stake. Doctors and other health care workers in San Francisco are already struggling to treat patients with substance use disorders, especially when the tools we have just aren’t as effective in the face of fentanyl. We need new tools to help us save lives, and that includes establishing a Safe Consumption Site.” –Dr. Leslie Suen, addiction physician and substance use researcher at UCSF, providing addiction services and substance use treatment at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and San Francisco VA Medical Center 

“The research is undeniable and equally compelling is what the lived experiences of drug users can tell us if we are serious about equity in public health. I know there are those in Sacramento who are trying to do the best they can but in times of urgency we have to do more.  San Francisco must go to extraordinary lengths to save our fellow citizens especially since it’s such an easy thing to do. San Francisco has been trying for at least ten years to open a safe injection facility where people can use drugs with supervision so if they overdose they can get help immediately. We  shouldn’t have to wait till January 2023. The time for action is now to start building our safe injection facility. The answer is clear:  the city must provide emergency measures to prevent more overdoses.” –Isaac Jackson, Urban Survivors Union

“Delays in establishing safe consumption sites will cost lives. In San Francisco, and nationwide, the number of people who fatally overdose continues to rise. Last year, we lost over 700 people to drug overdose, more than twice as many people who died of COVID-19. Overdose is a public health emergency and must be addressed as one. This is in spite of the extensive overdose prevention support currently available—last year, our team distributed 36,710 doses of naloxone, with nearly 4,000 overdose reversals reported. We urge legislators to prioritize new solutions that will help us turn the tide on overdose. We can’t afford to leave any options on the table now.” –Laura Thomas, director of harm reduction policy, San Francisco AIDS Foundation 

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Safer Inside is a neighborhood based, community-driven initiative for a healthier Tenderloin. The goals of Safer Inside are to: reduce environmental trauma from public injecting; improve individual drug user health; improve the health of the Tenderloin community; reduce the incidence of improperly disposed drug paraphernalia in the Tenderloin; and, advance evidence-based harm reduction interventions, including overdose prevention services, for people who use drugs. Learn more at saferinside.org

 

About the author

San Francisco AIDS Foundation

San Francisco AIDS Foundation

San Francisco AIDS Foundation promotes health, wellness and social justice for communities most impacted by HIV through sexual health and substance use services, advocacy, and community partnerships. Each year more than 25,000 people rely on SFAF programs and services, and millions more access SFAF health information online.