The Rejection of Legal Injection Sites in California
Gov. Newsom Rejects California Safe Injection Sites
When New York City introduced supervised injection sites last year, they joined a growing number of cities worldwide, all racing to contain a tidal wave of drug-related deaths. California lawmakers saw this as an opportunity to relaunch their own bid for a similar program. The primary objective of each proposed site is to save lives, and specially trained staff are on hand to deliver harm reduction measures in the event of an overdose. At the same time, clean needles and testing programs help prevent the spread of transmissible diseases like Hepatitis-C and HIV. Information on available treatment programs and resources is available for any addict wanting help.
The secondary effect potentially addresses the core issue of dependence itself. The key to its success is removing the stigma society places on drug abuse. The face of addiction changed dramatically over the years, and it’s not so easy to spot the addict anymore. Bringing the issue of drug abuse out into the open makes it easier for closet addicts to seek help. The injection sites offer a kind of neutral space where trust can build between drug users, public health workers, and law enforcement.
In 2018, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom publicly disagreed with then Governor Jerry Brown’s decision to shoot down a similar proposal for supervised injection facilities, saying he would be “very, very open” to such a program. With great optimism, SB 57 went out to the senate floor, passed, until finally making its way to Governor Newsom’s desk for his signature. Supporters were stunned when they learned Newsom vetoed the bill. The governor wrote that while he supported innovative harm reduction programs, he also worried that local governments would only worsen the drug problem if they failed to address even the tiniest inadequacy in operational or community support.
Newsom’s critics accused the governor of playing politics with people’s lives, dismissing his concerns as fear-mongering. After all, the program wouldn’t cost the state any money, and responsibility for financing the locations falls to the appropriate county or city administrations.
Rising Drug Addiction Rates in Los Angeles
In Los Angeles, the drug crisis is like a runaway freight train, running down lives and destroying families as it tears through neighborhoods, towns, and the beloved city. It’s impossible to know how many Angelenos struggle with addiction. We know that in Los Angeles County alone, the number of overdose deaths more than doubled over a six-year span, recording 2,000+ fatalities in 2021. Totals for the state show a similar spike, with the California Department of Health reporting 10,000+ drug-related deaths last year. The actual number of active users likely eclipses these figures.
Importance of Harm Reduction and Increased Access To Addiction Treatment
President Biden’s proposed budget acknowledged the desperate need to save lives first by allocating hundreds of millions towards expanding harm reduction strategies nationally. The continuing rise in overdose incidents puts immense strain on first responder teams, law enforcement, and hospital emergency rooms, and many local health care systems are at their breaking point.
California’s pilot program, like the bill to allow safe injection sites vetoed by Gavin Newsom, authorized many cities to operate secure injection site(s) through the end of 2027. These locations alleviate some of the burdens from our safety and health departments, and the anonymous data they collect is vital for future harm reduction and prevention programs.
Providing safe spaces for drug users doesn’t just help reduce the number of overdose deaths. They build trust between the addict, law enforcement, and health care workers. Addicts are less likely to share or discard dirty needles, preventing the spread of disease and improving safety and health conditions for everyone. Information and access to life-saving resources, like naloxone or a test kit for detecting the presence of fentanyl, are placed directly into the hands of those most in need, diverting them into treatment and other appropriate health care programs. The potential exists to reach thousands of struggling addicts.
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Addiction Treatment at Muse in Los Angeles
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