Governor Newsom expected to sign Senate Bill 57 to reduce the harms of substance abuse – Orange County Register

Everyone can agree that something must be done to end the scourge of drug addiction in society.

Everyone can agree that too many lives are lost to drug overdoses, especially fentanyl.

And everyone agrees that public drug use is at best a nuisance, at worst a tragic reflection of social dysfunction.

According to the California Overdose Surveillance Dashboard, more than 5,500 lives were lost to opioid overdoses in 2020. Most of those, 3,946, were linked to fentanyl. More than 16,500 emergency room admissions in 2020 were also linked to opioid overdoses.

Behind all these figures, there are not only people and real suffering, but also pressure on medical and police services.

While there is no panacea, Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, has championed piloting overdose prevention programs in some of the state’s major jurisdictions.

Senate Bill 57 would authorize the City and County of San Francisco, the City and County of Los Angeles, and the City of Oakland to authorize the establishment of programs by which local organizations establish safe and secure places , professionally staffed, where people can bring in and use drugs they would already be using under supervision. These people would be given sterile drug use devices, including syringes. If the individual overdoses on opioids, they will be given life-saving opioid antagonist medications. And, most importantly, they would also be referred to seek treatment for their addictions.

We understand the instinctive reactions to such a proposal. It just allows for drug abuse, some would say.

But we encourage people to keep in mind the reality that this bill is trying to address.

Dr. David Goodman, a physician and addiction expert, told us that these types of sites are the furthest from addiction. These are people who openly inject drugs on the street.

If you are concerned about addiction, it is important to connect people with addiction issues to help you.

The sites offered by SB 57 have the potential to connect with people who use drugs in ways that the criminal justice system cannot. Not everyone will agree to be referred to addiction services, but some will and it can be life changing for many and a public benefit to society.

There is the obvious tangential benefit of providing a space out of public view, which will save children on their way to school, for example, having to view drug abuse openly.

In addition, these facilities can play a vital role in preventing the spread of diseases often linked to the reuse of drug paraphernalia, including HIV and hepatitis. Most importantly, they can help save lives by responding quickly to overdoses if needed. This will in turn help to mitigate the impact of

“If we can agree that arresting and incarcerating people is a failed policy,” Senator Wiener told us. “Let’s treat addiction for what it is, which is a health problem. These sites are a proven model for connecting people to treatment, to keep people alive.

Indeed, many countries around the world use these facilities to reduce the harms of drug abuse and help connect addicts to the services they need. SB 57 strikes the right balance between being relatively limited in scope and requiring a formal evaluation of program effectiveness after a certain period of time.

Instead of pretending we can get out of the problem of substance abuse and addiction, let’s try an evidence-based approach to saving lives and reducing the harms of substance abuse.

SB 57 should be signed into law.

Norman D. Briggs