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California lawmakers are debating whether to open sites where people can inject or snatch illegal drugs under the watchful eye of health care workers. These facilities are an attempt to save lives as overdoses are skyrocketing across the country.
“Instead of drugging people on the sidewalk while your child is walking, we want to give them a place where they can go inside,” said State Sen. Scott Winer, D-San Francisco, sponsor of a bill to pilot. Facilities in Oakland, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Weiner emphasized that the so-called “safe use” or “supervised injection site” would not only prevent overdose, but also slow the spread of HIV and hepatitis by providing clean syringes.
The last time supervised injection facilities were on the table in California, in 2018, the bill reached Governor Jerry Brown’s desk. He vetoed. Winner is trying again. He points to a recent cost-benefit analysis that shows that every dollar spent on safe spending in San Francisco will save the city $ 2.33.
“Our hospitals, our emergency rooms, our fire departments, our ambulances are all spending huge resources on overweight people,” Weiner said.
Gary McCoy, who was previously addicted to heroin and then methamphetamine, said he found a safe place to shoot before he hit a rock and almost died.
He overdosed on heroin for the first time at a gas station when he was 18 years old. The store attendant calls 911 when McCoy deliriously exits the bathroom and breaks down.
“I immediately went back to my dealer’s house from the hospital and bought what he had because it was the best heroin I had ever made,” he said.
At the time, McCoy jumped into a conservative town in Virginia with his sexuality.
“I wasn’t in the closet,” McCoy said. “But I wasn’t really open about being gay.”
He has spent the next decade high, homeless and close to the edge. At age 24, McCoy learned that he was HIV-positive. He lived alone in a cheap hotel in San Francisco. It was the day before Christmas.
“I weighed 110 pounds, I had psoriasis all over my body, I was giving injections every day, doing sofa-surfing whenever I could, and doing sex work for drugs or sleeping space.”
When he had nowhere else to shoot, McCoy used the bathroom stall at the public library.
“I think if I had a place to go where I could use it safely, where people could see that I needed medical help, I think it could avoid a lot of trauma,” he said.
McCoy says he has spent a lot of time in prison because of the many arrests, and has landed monthly in the emergency department for at least a decade because of his drug habit and AIDS destroying his body.
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A safe cost site can range from converted RV to an extensive warehouse. Inside, it usually looks a bit like a hair salon, with sterile mirrors on the walls, separate stalls for each client, and sterile supplies in steel countertops.
“You’ll have two rooms,” said Alex Kral, an epidemiologist at RTI International, a non-profit research group. “The first room where people can give injections under supervision. And then you have a second room where people can basically cool down after using the medicine and after monitoring.”
Healthcare workers are on hand to prevent fatal overdoses, including naloxone and other life-saving equipment equipped with “crash carts”. The goal is to motivate people for treatment and connect them to primary care and social services.
Rhode Island greenlit supervised injection sites last year, but nothing has been launched yet. New York City opened two sites last fall. Worldwide, there are more than 100 secure access sites in more than a dozen countries.
“There have probably been millions of injections at these sites in the last 35 years,” Crawl said. “And no one has ever died of overdose.”
Yet, in the last year alone, more than 10,000 people have died in California, and more than 100,000 people across the country have died in excess on the streets, at parties or at home.
Ron Brooks, president of the National Narcotics Officers Association Coalition, said: “This number is really low because there are some parts of the country where there are no resources to screen toxicology for every death.”
He estimates the exact number could be as high as 140,000 deaths nationwide, which is why he says the overdose crisis is the nation’s most significant public health epidemic. However, Brooks does not support opening a “safe use site” to solve the problem because, he said, there is no safe way to take drugs.
Sacramento County District Attorney Ann Mary Schubert said, “You can say whatever you want. It’s an open drug scene.” “We are considering allowing our government to assist and assist in the illicit use of drugs that are killing our citizens. I am shocked.”
Schubert would rather see more court-directed treatment. He said current law does not allow judges to need almost enough people to help.
However, Gary McCoy says you can’t force restraint. When he finally stopped treatment, AIDS almost wiped out his immune system. In fact, he was in such a horrible shape that his drug dealer eventually asked him for help, which is why he is now a huge advocate for the injection sites he supervises.
“I don’t know if I would have stopped using it soon, but I would have been better off,” he said.
As he walks through his neighborhood in San Francisco this morning, McCoy chats with people up the street. He lets them know that there is support available – this is what outreach workers can provide on secure access sites.
The California State Assembly still has to pass the bill before it can be passed by Governor Gavin News, who will decide whether to sign it into law. If it passes, the piloted sites will remain open until January 1, 2027. While the facilities are open, officials will collect data to determine how effective they are.