Newsom expected to veto Senate Bill 57 on safe injection sites
A bill sitting on Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk would allow the creation of “safe” places to inject illegal drugs such as heroin, from Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland. We are not convinced of the merits of this bill.
The epidemic of open drug use on the streets of our big cities is a moral travesty and a health crisis. Overdose deaths in the fentanyl state rose from 1,603 in 2019 to 5,722 last year, according to California’s Opioid Overdose Monitoring Dashboard.
While we agree that the government must take bold action to save lives and restore the dignity, safety and cleanliness of our public spaces, this seems to be the wrong approach.
Senate Bill 57 would allow pilot programs in all three cities, allowing them to operate until January 1, 2028. The exact nature of the programs remains unclear. Details and logistics would be left to local authorities. It is unclear who would staff them and how they would be funded.
New York last year saw the opening of two such sites, which are paid for by non-profit organizations. Unsurprisingly, they’re not on Park Avenue. According to a March report by the Associated Pressin their first three months, the sites in the East Harlem and Washington Heights neighborhoods of upper Manhattan stopped more than 150 overdoses in about 9,500 visits — many of which repeat visits from some 800 people at the total.
Proponents say these sites reduce harm by preventing overdose deaths and reducing ambulance calls, and moving drug use out of public spaces like parks and alleys. Some say the facilities can act as a gateway to get people into treatment, although there is little statistical evidence to support this.
We agree that the government should work to reduce drug overdoses. But as a society, our goal must go beyond keeping addicts alive for another day, just to use them again – it must be helping people get off drugs for good. Government must advocate more than keep people out of the grave, it must work to improve the quality of life. Providing safe, comfortable places where people can get high – potentially at public expense – doesn’t encourage people to stop hurting themselves.
We are concerned about the practical and psychological impact on already marginalized communities. Who wants to open a business next to the government authorized drug site? Who wants to put a school or a church nearby? How do you explain to the neighborhood children what is happening in this building, but also explain to them that drugs are illegal and harmful?
We are also concerned about who would be responsible for staffing such a facility. Some may consider them saving angels. However, it’s hard to imagine a more gruesome job than watching dozens of people shoot themselves with drugs all day, throwing away their bodies and minds, and repeatedly pulling OD cases from the brink of death. . Wouldn’t it be more humane and more effective to employ these people in proven drug treatment intervention programs?
Maybe if California had really, really tried everything to get its drug problem under control, we could support that effort. But it’s not like we’ve tried everything. California is in dire need of affordable, high-quality addiction treatment facilities for those who are ready to start trying to break their addiction. Why not put more emphasis on it first?