A bill to create drug overdose prevention programs, including providing a “place to inject drugs while trained staff are available to help if they suffer accidental overdoses,” was pulled from the Assembly Health Committee on Tuesday, with the committee instead placing it to be heard next year.
Senate Bill 57, authored by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), would have authorized overdose prevention programs in the City and County of San Francisco, Los Angeles County, and the cities of Los Angeles and Oakland. These programs would provided a hygienic space supervised by trained staff where people who use drugs can consume pre-obtained drugs. Sterile consumption supplies, as well as access or referrals to substance use disorder treatment and opioid antagonist trained program staff, would have also been made available to all those who took advantage of the program. All people in the program would be exempt from civil liability, professional discipline, or existing criminal sanctions, solely for good faith actions, conduct, or omissions in compliance with an overdose prevention program authorized by the city or the city and county.
All affected areas would have also given local law enforcement officials, local public health officials, and the public to comment on the program before introduction.
Senator Wiener remained adamant that the bill was necessary throughout May and June, saying that safe drug use was essential to overall recovery.
“Safe consumption sites are a proven strategy to save lives and help people into recovery,” noted Senator Wiener in a statement. “Forcing people to use drugs on our streets doesn’t make anyone safer. Let’s, instead, take a public health approach to drug use, with trained professionals who can provide clean supplies, overdose prevention medication, and access to drug treatment programs.”
However, an overly full docket, partially caused by a high number of bills being delayed until this session due to the COVID-19 pandemic legislative session delays last year, as well as concerns over a continuing legal case over a similar injection site in Philadelphia that has been blocked by the Appeals Court, pushed out SB 57 until next year.
A delay in voting on overdose prevention programs/injection sites
Supporters were disappointed with the decision on Tuesday, noting that the decision would hurt current addicts by not giving them a safe place to take drugs for at least another half a year. However, many saw the silver lining and vowed to help tweak the bill to help bring in hesitant Democrats and Republicans who have remained against the bill.
“We’re advancing legislation to authorize safe consumption sites in SF, Oakland, LA,” tweeted Wiener on Tuesday. “It passed the Senate. The Assembly Health Committee informed us the bill will be heard in January. While we’re disappointed in the delay, we’re committed to moving the bill fwd in January.”
We’re advancing legislation to authorize safe consumption sites in SF, Oakland, LA (#SB57). It passed the Senate. The Assembly Health Committee informed us the bill will be heard in January. While we’re disappointed in the delay, we’re committed to moving the bill fwd in January: pic.twitter.com/vqGzMOf4Yu
— Senator Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) July 6, 2021
Opponents celebrated the delay but also vowed to continue fighting against it to the vote next year.
“This time around we can’t rely on a Governor veto,” explained “James,” a law enforcement officer opposed to the plan. “Brown did it to a similar bill a few years back. Newsom really hasn’t given an indication, likely because he still wants to keep what law enforcement support he still has for the recall. If someone replaces him, probably veto. But that’s getting ahead.”
“Right now there are a lot of lawmakers against this, but as the Senate vote proved, there is not enough. We’ve been telling anyone who will listen just how unsafe these centers can be, as well as the fact that they are committing crimes there. We’re all for rethinking what to do about the drug problem, like focusing more on suppliers and dealers rather than users, but this is going too far, too fast to many of us.”
SB 57 is expected to be heard again in the Assembly Health Committee next session beginning in January.
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