The San Francisco Department of Public Health has recently decided to endorse a recommendation made by a government-created task force. The recommendation in question is for the opening of the US’s first government-backed, safe injection sites, aimed at fighting back against the opioid epidemic that has struck the country.
These facilities provide a safe, controlled and professionally monitored space where people can consume drugs like fentanyl or heroin, under proper supervision of medical staff able to respond in case of an overdose or any other similar medical emergency. The facility also provides counseling, support and referrals to other needed social and health services, allowing users to get in touch with a Southern California Rehab facility, should they so desire.
The controversial facilities have drawn some flak, but with the state of affairs regarding the opioid epidemic, which has lead to a staggering number of overdose deaths in the US, Mayor Mark Farrell, San Francisco, says that they are needed. He said that he understands the issues a lot of people might have with the idea, and why some don’t support it, but he expresses the need to try this out as a solution to the current issue.
The US saw drug overdose deaths in 2016 pass 63,000, more than the number of casualties in the Vietnam War, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Current data shows that if the current situation does not change, more than half a million Americans will die from overdoes within the next decade, which will surpass the casualties of World War II.
San Fran has an estimated 22,000 intravenous drug users, a large number of which openly take drugs in public areas in the city, with 100 people dying of drug overdose, according to a report from the San Francisco Safe Injection Services Task Force.
San Francisco plans to open the first two of these facilities by the beginning of its fiscal year, in July.
With regard to the sites, over 100 peer reviews of them have shown that they are pretty effective at reducing overdose deaths, as well as preventing the spread of intravenously acquired diseases like HIV and viral hepatitis.
State Director Laura Thomas, Drug Policy Alliance, says that she is excited for the opening of these facilities, an issue she’s been working on for a decade.
Whilst other US cities like Seattle and Baltimore are working on opening safe injection sites in order to work on the opioid epidemic, San Francisco is the first to actually open one.
San Francisco residents have expressed support of the idea, with David Binder Research data with their sample size of 500 having 67% of their respondents backing the idea, with 27% opposing it, with an additional 6% not aware of the idea.