Senate Passes Bill to Permit Safe Injection Sites in San Francisco

August 21, 2018

Sacramento—Today the California State Senate passed Assembly Bill 186, which allows San Francisco, pursuant to a 3-year pilot program, to implement safe injection sites. AB 186 is authored by Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman (D- Stockton) and co-authored by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco).

AB 186 permits San Francisco to establish facilities where individuals can use controlled substances under the supervision of staff that are trained to treat and prevent drug overdose and link people to drug treatment, housing, healthcare, and other services. Mayor London Breed, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, as well as a significant majority of the San Francisco electorate, support piloting safe injection sites in San Francisco.

Last year AB 186 was passed by the Assembly, making it the first legislative body in the nation to pass such a bill, but was two votes shy in the Senate.  Today the Senate passed the bill with 21 votes. AB 186 must now to go back to the Assembly for a concurrence vote (i.e., concurring in amendments made in the Senate). If the Assembly votes to concur, the bill will be sent to the Governor for his signature.

“AB 186 is a bill that asks one specific policy question – should we keep trying what has failed for decades or give San Francisco the choice to try something that we know saves lives, reduces disease, and saves money?” said Assemblymember Eggman. “The opioid epidemic has ravaged communities up and down the state and all across the country. This bill provides a path for taking it on as the health crisis that it is.”

“We have a terrible problem of heroin and meth addiction, with far too much public drug injection,” said Senator Wiener. “This public health epidemic calls for forward-looking, progressive solutions. The status quo isn’t working. People are injecting drugs whether or not we intervene. They’re injecting on our sidewalks and parks, in transit stations and alleyways, and on people’s front steps. Safe injection sites provide people with an opportunity to inject in a clean, safe environment, with healthcare personnel available to prevent overdoses, and with an opportunity to offer people addiction, healthcare, housing, and other services. AB 186 presents us with a unique opportunity to keep people healthy, reduce overdoses, and make our communities safer.”

The leading cause of accidental deaths in California and nationwide is from drug overdose.  Public drug injection is linked to higher rates of overdose, an increase in the spread of infectious diseases, including HIV and viral hepatitis, and other public health and safety risks. 

“We have already lost too many people to overdose in this country,” said Laura Thomas, Interim State Director for Drug Policy Alliance. “I’m grateful to the State Senate for understanding the urgent necessity to take action, and for giving San Francisco the green light to move forward and save lives. We’ve been talking about the need for these services in San Francisco for over a decade. It’s time to take action.”

Supervised overdose prevention centers have been proven effective in locations where they are permitted. The sites help in reducing overdose deaths, preventing transmission of HIV and viral hepatitis, reducing drug use and syringes on streets, and also in linking individuals who use drugs to treatment and other services. Research shows that individuals who access these programs are more likely to enter into treatment and are more likely to stop using drugs.

AB 186 is sponsored by a broad coalition of public health and medical groups, substance use disorder treatment providers, and HIV and hepatitis prevention groups, including the Drug Policy Alliance, California Association of Alcohol and Drug Program Executives (CAADPE), California Society of Addiction Medicine (CSAM), DPA, Harm Reduction Coalition, Project Inform, and Tarzana Treatment Center. It is co-authored by Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) and Senator Ricardo Lara (D- Bell Gardens).