The San Francisco Safe Injection Services Task Force recommended yesterday that the city create places where users can administer injections under supervision, in addition to providing services that can curb the transmission of communicable disease and quell the opioid crisis.
According to an article in the Examiner, the sites—should the city ultimately choose to establish them—would have medical professionals on hand to monitor users and provide clean needles.
The task force, championed by Board of Supervisors President London Breed, recommends multiple sites in the Tenderloin, Civic Center, the Mission, Bayview and the Upper Haight, or areas with the highest concentration of drug users. Mobile pop-up safe injection sites are also on the table.
The recommendation comes as President Trump recently declared the opioid crisis a national emergency. "The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I’m saying officially, right now, it is an emergency," he said. "It’s a national emergency. We’re going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis."
A recent study conducted at an underground safe injection facility—since the practice is currently illegal under federal law—found that safe sites helped reduce the transmission of HIV and Hepatitis C. Additionally, staffers safely disposed of an estimated 1,725 syringes and saved two individuals from opioid overdoses.
The San Francisco Police Department told the task force that it'll defer to what the city ultimately decides, but noted that theirs may not be the best agency to respond to issues concerning injected drug use.
“We don’t want to police a system that is trying to keep people safe," said SFPD Lt. Troy Dangerfield. Officers responding to safe injection sites may charge users with felony possession of a controlled substance if called upon.
"Imagine that you are somebody who is injecting drugs: you’re homeless, on the street someplace," epidemiologist Alex Kral told Forbes earlier this week.
"Obviously, you’re going to try to do that injection as quickly as possible in case police walk by, in which case you might get arrested."
Kral also said that when people who use unregulated drugs sold on the street are rushed because of a fear of being arrested, contaminated products can prove deadly. The safe sites aim to prevent unnecessary harm.
"If you don't know [your drugs] contain fentanyl, you're highly at risk for taking something too potent, and might overdose," Kral said. "But if you're inside with people monitoring you, and can sit down and take your time away from the chaos outside, you can do it right."
"There is a national opioid epidemic and San Francisco is not exempt," San Francisco director of health Barbara Garcia told Hoodline in a statement. "We are in a good position to innovate, and save lives, and we have a dedicated group of experts and community members working together to find solutions."
"We look forward to presenting the Safe Injection Services Task Force recommendations to the Board of Supervisors in September and continuing the process," Garcia added. "Meanwhile, we will continue to work with the City on multiple ongoing efforts to respond to this crisis and to care for drug users in San Francisco."
The task force will present the recommendation to the Board of Supervisors when they reconvene after the summer recess next month.
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