The first safe injection site demonstration program in the U.S. opened in the Tenderloin this week, offering four days of education and outreach on overdose prevention strategies for intravenous drug users.
The four-day demonstration program is presented by the Tenderloin Health Improvement Partnership (TLHIP), designed by Capital One Design Pro Bono, and led by the Safer Inside Community, a neighborhood-based initiative working to support a healthier environment in the Tenderloin. Safer Inside is a partnership between TLHIP and the St. Anthony Foundation.
The prototype aims to show how a supervised, indoor location for intravenous drug users to consume drugs, along with access to treatment and recovery services, could improve the community.
Studies of safe injection sites in other countries have shown positive benefits, including a reduction in fatal overdose rates.
Supporters have argued that they could also lower the occurrence of public drug use, help prevent the spread of diseases like HIV and hepatitis from shared needles, and reduce the numbers of needles littering the city's streets.
The “Safer Inside” prototype is housed at Glide (330 Ellis St.), which already offers a suite of other social services. It aims to demonstrate how safe injection sites could be integrated into an existing multi-service organization, and how other related harm-reduction services can complement and support a safe injection site.
It also an opportunity to test operational practices and procedures and get feedback from the public, including people who inject drugs, health practitioners, treatment providers, and other community-serving organizations.
The prototype’s timeline —August 28th - 31st, 2018 —coincides with the annual California Society of Addiction Medicine Conference and Overdose Awareness Day on August 31st.
It also comes shortly after the California Legislature’s passage of AB 186, which would allow San Francisco to conduct a three-year pilot program of safe injection sites within the city. The legislation is still awaiting Governor Jerry Brown’s signature.
Last year, the city's Safe Injection Services Task Force issued 17 recommendations aimed at facilitating the creation of safe injection sites in San Francisco. The effort was spearheaded by now-Mayor London Breed, who lost her sister to an overdose and introduced Resolution 123-17 to launch the task force and adopt its report.
“A demonstration like Safer Inside provides us with an incredible opportunity to learn how to alleviate the suffering we see on our streets, and will hopefully start a conversation that will lead to policy change across the country,” Glide president and chief executive Karen Hanrahan said in a statement.
The prototype, which is open to the public, provides experiential learning opportunities, guided walk-throughs, interactive digital displays, and other ways to learn about the potential of safe injection sites as harm reduction and overdose prevention strategies.
Locals can visit Safer Inside today until 2 p.m. Tours for groups and individuals will be offered every 30 minutes.
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