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State, city leaders call on governor to sanction safe injection sites in SF

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Mayor London Breed, flanked by Supervisor Rafael Mandelman (left) and state Sen. Scott Wiener (right), speaks at a news conference at HealthRIGHT 360 on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018 Breed and others urged Gov. Jerry Brown to sign Assembly Bill 186, which would permit a pilot program to allow safe injection sites in San Francisco. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

State and city leaders on Tuesday publicly pressured Gov. Jerry Brown to sign off on a bill that would greenlight plans to pilot the nation’s first safe injection site in San Francisco for three years.

Assemblymember Susan Eggman, who authored AB 186, advocated for safe injection sites opening up locally alongside Sen. Scott Wiener, Assemblymember David Chiu, Mayor London Breed, San Francisco Supervisor Rafael Mandelman and health care advocates at San Francisco’s HealthRIGHT 360 care center.

The State Assembly became the first legislative body in the United States last year to pass a bill authorizing the sites, which in other countries have been found to reduce overdose deaths and disease transmission and increase the odds that drug users will accept drug treatment and other services. Earlier this month, AB 186 was passed by the State Senate.

“We introduced this bill three years ago for the first time and I couldn’t even get a vote in the first committee,” said Eggman. “When we were finally able to pass it, it was one city, the brave city of San Francisco, who was willing to do this.”

The idea of opening a facility where supervised drug consumption is permitted has long been controversial, and in recent weeks the notion has elicited promises of a crackdown by the Department of Justice.

Last week, a mock safe injection site opened temporarily at the Glide Memorial Methodist Church to allow the public to see how the medically supervised site would work and address questions and concerns from the public.

It is still unclear where the first site will be located and how long it would take to get it up and running. Brown has until the end of September to approve the bill.

“There are some challenges with federal law…we need to make sure that the people who are going to be working at these sites are protected,” said Breed. “But we are ready to go.”

Vitka Eisen, CEO & President of HealthRIGHT 360, said she would like to see a site launch at the integrated care facility.

“We want to be a low-barrier access to service and health improvements, and it completely fits into our mission and our view of how healthcare should be delivered,” said Eisen.

Breed said that taxpayer dollars will most likely not be used to fund safe injection sites in San Francisco.

“We have identified some resources to help assist in the funding for this site,” she said. “At this time, it will probably not necessarily come from our city’s budget.

lwaxmann@sfexaminer.com

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