SAN FRANCISCO—A bill which would have allowed the city of San Francisco to open facilities to address drug overdoses has failed to pass in the California legislature on August 26. The bill proposed opening safe injection sites throughout San Francisco, where people could inject drugs under supervision, in order to address and prevent a rise in overdose deaths within the city. 

Within these proposed facilities, people could safely inject pre-obtained drugs, such as heroin, under the supervision of health professionals who would monitor syringe use, and also monitor for signs of an overdose. Counselors and other professionals would also be provided to help addicts onto a path to recovery.

This is not the first time the bill has been rejected. In 2018, supporters of safe injection sites nearly had a victory when California state legislature approved the bill to open these sites, but Governor Jerry Brown vetoed it. In a public statement, State Senator Scott Wiener claims that the reason why the bill did not move forward this year was due to a “significant reduction in bills in light of the COVID-shortened legislative session”. The bill is expected to be introduced again in December, when legislature is expected to reconvene more frequently.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed has been advocating for safe injection sites over the years, and one of her campaign promises was to secure $500K to grant the opening of these sites. Safe injection sites are proven to reduce the spread of infections, prevent fatal overdoses, and reduce syringe litter in other countries that have them, such as Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Canada, and others.

Mayor Breed has said that city needs legal protection from the state before proceeding to open these sites, as in recent years the Trump Administration has threatened to prosecute those who open them illegally. 

Recent health data for San Francisco shows that the number of overdoses have been rising over the years. Recorded overdose deaths from cocaine, methamphetamine or opioids was at 259 in 2018, and 330 in 2019.