The California State Senate voted in favor of a bill to permit San Francisco to open overdose prevention services that would allow drug users to use controlled substances under the supervision of staff trained to treat and prevent drug overdose and link people to drug treatment, housing and other services. AB 186, authored by Assembly member Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) and co-authored by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) passed 21-16.
This historic bill sponsored by Drug Policy Alliance, drug treatment experts, HIV and hepatitis advocates, and others, puts California at the forefront of the national momentum towards opening overdose prevention services, also known as supervised consumption services (SCS) in the U.S. The bill would allow the City and County of San Francisco to open such services and provide legal protections for the programs and participants. It creates a pilot program and requires a report on the efficacy of the services. It now goes to the state Assembly for concurrence, and if passed, to the Governor for signature.
Overdose prevention services are 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 disposal. Research has shown that people who access these programs are more likely to enter treatment and more likely to stop using drugs. Support is growing rapidly across the country for these services in the face of dramatic increases in drug overdose deaths. Similar legislation has been introduced in Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York, and New York, Philadelphia, and Seattle are in the process of opening sites.
Dr. David Kan, President of the California Society of Addiction Medicine (CSAM) stated "The California Society of Addiction Medicine applauds the California Senate for passing AB 186 that would allow for the establishment of a pilot program for safe consumption services (SCS) in San Francisco. This bill is a major advance for public health and provides badly needed access to treatment for people who use drugs. The evidence supporting SCS is overwhelming. Access to SCS reduces the risk of drug overdose, reduces the spread of infectious disease, reduces needles on the street and substantially increases the likelihood that a person will enter drug treatment. CSAM believes that in the midst of an overdose epidemic, it is time to embrace the science to serve all people who use drugs."
“Passing this legislation will result in fewer HIV and hepatitis infections and prevent fatal overdose, but most importantly it sends the message to people who use drugs that California is committed to shifting from a criminal to a public health approach to drug use; it says you matter, and we’re committed to supporting you to stay alive” said Dr. Taeko Frost, Western Regional Director at Harm Reduction Coalition
“San Francisco is in need of an effective public health intervention for drug overdoses and public drug use. Overdose prevention centers can be a best-practice component of a larger solution in our city, and I am encouraged by today’s Senate approval of AB 186.” said Joe Hollendoner, San Francisco AIDS Foundation CEO. “The increasingly common presence of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids in the drug supply puts more lives at risk. A pilot program will allow us to demonstrate how these centers can help San Francisco better respond to the opioid epidemic, and I hope Governor Brown will sign this bill considering its potential to save lives.”