The Drug Policy Alliance’s bill, AB 186 (Eggman), made history as the first ever state bill on supervised consumption services (SCS) to win legislative votes in the U.S. It has now passed both the Assembly Public Safety Committee and the Assembly Health Committee, gaining support on health and pubic order grounds. A majority of legislators in each committee decided that these services were worth trying, to better address drug use in California. The bill would allow local jurisdictions to permit SCS and provide legal protections for the programs and participants. It creates a pilot program, allowing a limited number of jurisdictions to operate the services, and requires a report on the efficacy of the program.
“This is a huge step toward establishing a more effective, treatment-focused approach to drug addiction and abuse in California,” said Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman. “The committee’s input has done a great deal to refine the bill since I first introduced it last year, and its support clearly demonstrates the legislature’s willingness to consider bold ideas to get people to treatment and counseling, to protect public health and safety and, most importantly, to save lives. ”
Supervised consumption services, also referred to as supervised injection services, are long-proven harm reduction services that are effective at linking people who use drugs to treatment and other services, reducing overdose deaths, preventing transmission of HIV and viral hepatitis, and reducing street-based drug use and syringe litter.
Research has shown that people who access these programs are more likely to enter treatment and more likely to stop using drugs. Around 100 exist around the world, but none yet in the United States.
The negative health and social consequences of drug use remain staggeringly high in California, despite strong investment in treatment and prevention. Drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in California and nationwide, killing more people than motor vehicle accidents. Public drug injection is associated with higher rates of overdose, transmission of infectious diseases including HIV & viral hepatitis, as well as a variety of nuisance and safety issues. The SCS in Vancouver, Insite, reduced fatal drug overdoses in the area around it by a third. It has also dramatically reduced public drug injection and syringe litter in the area.
“This bill is a needed step towards treating drug use as a health issue, not a criminal justice issue,” said Laura Thomas, deputy state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Everyone deserves safety and good health and these harm reduction services benefit the whole community. This bill would give San Francisco the opportunity to add these evidence-based services to our continuum of care.”
The bill also passed the Assembly Health Committee by a vote of 9-4 and the Assembly Public Safety Committee by a vote of 4-3. Similar bills have been introduced in other states, including here in California last year, but none have ever won a vote. It goes next to the Assembly Floor.
AB 186 is co-sponsored by California Association of Alcohol and Drug Program Executives (CAADPE), California Society of Addiction Medicine (CSAM), DPA, Harm Reduction Coalition, Project Inform, and Tarzana Treatment Center.
Following the legislative momentum in California, a New York coalition of healthcare professionals, public health experts, advocates, and people with a history of drug use launched a statewide campaign today calling for the creation of safer consumption spaces (SCS)/supervised injection facilities (SIF) in response to New York's overdose epidemic. The 10-day tour will stop in some of the NY communities that have been the hardest hit by the opioid overdose crisis, and feature Safe Shape, a model of a safer consumption space, and a panel discussion and community conversation.