By Paige Laver
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – It will be January before a pilot overdose program—authored by state Sen. Scott Wiener—will be heard in the Assembly Health Committee.
The delay was criticized by San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin and the bill’s proponents.
SB 57 impacts San Francisco—the opioid crisis is currently a worldwide epidemic and challenge, and San Francisco faces an alarming overdose rate.
In San Francisco and across the nation, the number of people who fatally overdose continually rises. Last year in San Francisco, over 700 people fatally died from an overdose—more than the death toll of Covid-19 deaths in San Francisco.
Addiction is an excruciating challenge, and there are many barriers senators have had to go through to get SB 57 passed, according to the author.
The opioid epidemic in the U.S. has more than 841,000 reported deaths since 1999 and has lost 70,630 individuals from drug overdoses in 2019, according to a 2020 CDC report.
If passed, SB 57 would authorize and allow the city and county of San Francisco, the county of Oakland, and the county of Los Angeles to approve entities to operate overdose prevention programs for people who satisfy certain requirements, with facilities such as hygienic and sterile spaces that are supervised by trained staff.
Additionally, it provides the potential to help people who use drugs to consume pre-obtained drugs, which provide access or referrals to substance use disorder treatment.
It will exempt a person from civil liability, professional discipline, and or existing criminal sanctions entirely for good faith actions, conduct, or omissions in compliance with an overdose prevention program.
District Attorney Boudin discussed the new bill by stating, “I am really disappointed in the delay. We need safe consumption sites NOW to save lives in San Francisco.” He thanked the author for “continuing to champion this critical issue.”
The SFDA believes in what the bill stands for, which makes strides toward benefiting the lives of residents in San Francisco by including a safe environment surrounded by trained staff to monitor people who are struggling with addiction.
This bill includes providing resources for substance abuse treatment to allow for recovery and programs that provide psychological treatment around addiction.
Sen. Wiener said that “while I’m extremely disappointed that we are experiencing another delay in passing this life-saving legislation which has passed both senate and assembly twice in different forms over the past five years, I continue to be optimistic that we’ll pass SB 57 and get it signed into law.”
San Francisco AIDS foundation and Wiener expressed deep concern for the delay in consumption sites when the bill first was passed by the Senate in April of 2021, which got pushed back to being heard by the Assembly of Health Committee in January 2022.
Kevin Rogers, interim CEO at San Francisco AIDS Foundation, discusses the significance of the bill and how important it is to take care of people who use drugs.
“This work is integral to the strategic plan of our organization, and we are ready to take bold action in order to ensure health justice for all of our communities—especially those who use substances and may be at risk for overdose,” he noted.
Overdose prevention programs are an evidence-based strategy that have been proven to reduce overdose deaths, improve health of people who use drugs, reduce public drug use, reduce infectious disease, and improve linkage to drug prevention programs and treatment, claim proponents of the measure.