San Joaquin Democratic Assembly member, Susan Eggman and Senator Scott Weiner, recently authored legislation championed emphatically by San Francisco Mayor, London Breed. AB 186 – A bill to provide safe injection sites for the intravenous drug using population of San Francisco. It began it’s uphill battle 3 years ago, originally presented as a bill that would allow all 58 counties throughout California to independently run safe injection site programs, also referred to as safe consumption centers.
After being rejected outright by both the California Assembly and Senate, these same authors re-introduced the bill, reducing the number of counties to pilot a safe injection site and program from the originally all-inclusive 58 Californian counties to nine counties chosen because of their high rate of intravenous drug addiction. The counties included Humboldt, Mendocino, San Francisco, Alameda, Santa Cruz, San Joaquin, Fresno and Los Angeles.
That bill, also rejected, was re-introduced, yet again, for a third time to allow no other county in the state other than San Francisco to run three pilot safe injection sites for a trial period of 3 years.
Having the full support of the entire san Francisco Board of Supervisors, District Attorney’s Office, Sheriff Department as well as the San Francisco Public Health Department, the push for the bill’s passage was spearheaded by Mayor Breed, who herself, lost a sister to a fatal intravenous drug overdose.
As soon as the bill passed the California Assembly and Senate, it was on its way to be finally decided by California Governor Jerry Brown and signed into California State law by his signature.
Previous to Governor Brown’s consideration, the ultra-conservative Trump administration sneaked through a dire warning via a New York Times op-ed piece in which Deputy U.S. Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein made direct threats of property confiscation and incarceration of any individuals and/or organizations who may participate in the life saving program that this legislation would legally condone on a State level.
Just as the current legal standing of cannabis clubs operating legally under California State law, the practice is still illegal under Federal law. This means that the Federal Government could at anytime today exercise these same persecutions against cannabis clubs as well, anywhere throughout California.
He stated in the op-ed piece, emphatically:
“It is a Federal felony to maintain any location for the purpose of facilitating illicit drug use. Violations are punishable by up to 20 years in prison, hefty fines and forfeiture of that property used in the criminal activity.”
Governor Brown, a political leader, who has long served California through the past several decades, has been historically known to be traditionally progressive. But when it came to legislation to provide for overdose prevention sites, he gave in to the Trump administration’s intimidation and morality based anti-drug user rhetoric as he vetoed the bill and cited falsehoods regarding its content to justify the outright veto. As though he may not have even read the bill, saying that the proposed services did not provide for any rehabilitation services, which is utterly false.
The truth of this bill being the direct opposite of one in which there is no pathway to rehabilitation. One of the primary goals of the proposed legislation was to provide a safe harbor for those that suffer from the disease of addiction. So they would have secure, safe and ready access to detoxification and rehabilitation services, as well as many other necessary quality of life services through informational referral.
As mayor Breed has unwaveringly stated multiple times, “We need to connect with these people on a human level so that we may offer them hope.”
Modeled precisely after the overwhelmingly successful safe injection site operating since 2003 in Vancouver, Canada by the name of InSite, Glide Memorial Church in partnership with Healthright 360 (formerly known as San Francisco’s legendary Walden House Incorporated. A rehabilitation and recovery center) constructed and hosted a fully stocked, staffed and functional prototype based upon the InSite safe consumption facility in Vancouver, Canada. All of this was painstakingly done to show clearly and unequivocally that these program sites would in no way be anything more than safe consumption centers. Not the illicit shooting galleries and crack houses as described by the Trump administration and the alt-right conservative opponents of drug users here in California and elsewhere.
Never does the proffered program’s critics mention the five goals that are the very framework of the proposed legislation, which are all described in great detail as the top priorities of the center’s operations.
Preventing and/or reversing incidents of overdose, thereby saving lives that would otherwise be lost.
Preventing diseases, particularly of the blood borne variety such as AIDS/HIV and Hepatitis C as well as many others resulting from otherwise non-sterile practices of injecting on the streets under desperate and hurried conditions.
Detoxification and treatment availability. An opt-in opportunity open to anyone choosing to make an attempt to cure his or her disease of addiction.
Connecting people to other services, both socio-economic and health wise.
Reduction of discarded needles on the street and further reduction of needle sharing.
San Francisco’s currently operating and successful needle exchange program faced a similar battle. One in which, also, the act of sterilized needle distribution was considered to be an act of enablement of addiction, thereby propagating the very problems the sterile needle distribution addresses successfully with incontrovertible evidence. An outright deception that the alt – right promotes as a distraction of their real intent, which is to circumvent the conventional wisdom of the United States constitution, granting us on both State and Federal levels, the inalienable rights provided by the separation of church and state. Therefore the facts are dismissed, if not concealed, so that an unconstitutional morality may be imposed. Which of course further marginalizes an equally precious segment of our population, resulting in needless suffering and death which the anti-drug user alt-right conservatives consider to be their just desserts - a sick and albeit psychopathic viewpoint that a drug user’s death is a solution in itself.
The authors and proponents of this bill have vowed to keep fighting and make the pilot test program of providing safe consumption centers in San Francisco a reality. In a city in which the San Francisco Public Health Department has estimated that approximately 22,000 needle using addicts reside, (and we know these numbers as they are collected only scratch the surface of the actual number, which is much, much higher) this is nothing less than a disease health crises of literally epidemic proportions.
The operation of the safe consumption centers is simple, yet extremely effective at putting a huge dent in the number of deaths San Francisco suffers on a daily basis due to overdose as well as other complications caused by unsafe practices of drug injection.
Throughout the lifetime of the Canadian InSite program, over an approximate 3.5 million medically supervised injections have taken place at the time of this writing. Of these, there have been approximately 6,000 cases of overdose that transpired, which, without the medical oversight provided by a dedicated staff of health care professionals would have resulted in assured death for all 6,000 incidents. Out of all of these, there was not a single occurrence of death.
The prototype provided by Glide Memorial Church and Healthright 360 demonstrated the actual functionality of the proposed facility by providing guided tours.
With counselors and trained healthcare professionals constantly on staff, there are 12 booths provided for people to inject drugs that they themselves provide. Everything else is provided to ensure that their injection is performed safely within a clean and sterile environment by providing cotton swabs, clean water, other materials such as fresh tourniquets as well as other supplies to clean wounds so as to greatly reduce the chances of contracting infections.
As the user injects, they are monitored from the other side of the booth to ensure that if any indications arise that the user may be at risk, that they will be treated immediately with the appropriate procedures that would be necessary to save their lives.
People to person connections are developed through the repeated use of the facility where they come to be on a first name basis with the staff. If at any point the person feels that they wish to change their lives and attempt to cure themselves of the addiction that tortures them so, the staff members are there and equipped to provide instant detoxification services.
For those that need help with basic survival matters, such as food, housing, clothing and an entire host of other social services, likewise, these are also immediately available through effective referrals.
As a community, state – as a country, we absolutely cannot in good conscience, continue to allow these brothers and sisters of our human family to perish, all simply because we lack a basic understanding that drug addiction is far beyond a choice. It is in fact a disease. Drug addiction is a disease that we will only be able to eradicate from a starting point of compassion and love.
Copyright 2019 Robert Stanford all rights reserved.