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SF looks to create task force examining safe injection sites

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(From left to right) Moses Richards and Caldin Johnson, Downtown Streets Team members, hold containers filled with approximately 50 needles that the street team collected from the ground and grass along Market Street in San Francisco on Thursday, March 17, 2016. (Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco is set to explore whether opening a facility that allows people to inject drugs under supervision would help intravenous drug users recover from addiction in The City.

Board of Supervisors President London Breed on Tuesday will introduce legislation that would create a task force to research what are called safe injection sites, which would allow people to inject drugs in an environment that also offers health and social services. The Department of Public Health estimates there are 22,000 people who inject drugs in San Francisco.

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The task force would consist of up to 15 members and include employees of the health, police and homelessness and supportive housing departments, as well as various researchers and representatives of a drug user advocacy organization and drug policy organization, among others. A recovered drug user would also be part of the task force.

Breed acknowledged that not everyone may support opening a safe injection site in San Francisco. Mayor Ed Lee criticized the idea of safe injection sites last year but he has since softened his position, stating he is open to the idea.

“This is the point of the task force, to bring this information together and decide whether or not it’s the right decision,” Breed told the San Francisco Examiner on Monday.

“I can’t really say this is the way to go or this isn’t the way to go,” she continued. “There’s information all over the place and it’s why it’s important to do our research, get community input, see what’s working and have a better understanding of what’s going on.”

In fact, Breed plans to visit a safe injection site in Vancouver this week to learn firsthand whether the model is effective. Canada is among 10 countries that currently offer safe injection facilities, and while there are none open in the U.S., earlier this year Seattle officials announced the city will open two such facilities.

S.F. Examiner Staff Writer Joshua Sabatini contributed to this report.

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