California State Senator Scott Wiener’s Safe Consumption Sites Bill Receives Final Senate Approval and is Presented to Governor Newsom


August 5, 2022 – Sacramento – Senate Bill 57, drafted by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), passed the Senate on a vote of approval from XY – clearing its final legislative hurdle. Now goes to the Governor.

SB 57 legalizes overdose prevention programs, also known as safe consumption sites or safe injection sites, as pilot programs in San Francisco, Oakland, the City of Los Angeles, and Los Angeles County. The city council or supervisory board of each pilot jurisdiction has asked to be included in the legislation, and each will decide locally whether and to what extent they wish to participate. SB 57 simply removes the state ban that currently makes these programs illegal. SB 57 is a pilot program that will run for five years, until January 1, 2028.

“California – like our nation as a whole – is experiencing a dramatic and preventable increase in overdose deaths, and we need all the tools available to help people stay alive and get healthy,” said Senator Vienna. “Safe consumption sites are a proven model for helping people avoid overdose deaths, reduce transmission of HIV and hepatitis, reduce needle waste and help people access treatment. This bill is not about whether we want people to use drugs. Rather, it’s an acknowledgment that people *use* drugs, and our choice is whether we want to do whatever we can to help them survive and get healthy. Now is the time for California to adopt this proven strategy to prevent overdose deaths.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, overdoses and overall substance use have increased dramatically. For example, San Francisco had a record number of overdose deaths in 2020, with 711 total deaths. In 2021, 640 people died from overdoses. San Francisco is unfortunately on track to meet or exceed those numbers in 2022. Nationally, 100,000 people died from drug overdoses from April 2020 to April 2021, including about 10,000 people in California. This is a public health crisis, and it is preventable.

Overdose prevention programs – which have existed for decades in Europe, Canada and Australia, with proven success – are supervised facilities where those who use drugs intravenously or otherwise can do so in a safer way, in the goal of transitioning them into recovery programs. In the decades that more than 170 facilities have operated in other parts of the world, not a single overdose death has occurred in any of them.

Rhode Island legalized safe consumption sites several years ago, as did Philadelphia. More recently, New York City opened two safe consumption sites, and in the first three months of operation, staff at these sites were able to stop more than 150 overdoses.

During an 18-month study period at Insite, a safe consumption site in Vancouver, 336 overdoses were reported – but in all cases, the person who overdosed survived. That’s because there were trained professionals on hand to administer life-saving treatments like Narcan and get emergency help. Studies also suggest that overdose prevention programs reduce the burden on emergency services — like ambulances and emergency rooms — that traditionally respond to overdose events.

Recent studies of an unauthorized overdose prevention program also suggest that there is no increase in crime, violence, or drug trafficking in areas surrounding these programs. Crime in fact decreases in these areas. Studies also show that overdose prevention programs result in less injection-related waste, such as discarded needles.

Trained professionals provide people who visit overdose prevention programs with clean needles, have supplies such as Narcan to help with an overdose, and may have test strips for fentanyl and other life-threatening drug additives. Studies show that these programs prevent overdose deaths and help people with substance use disorder connect to treatment and other services. In addition, overdose prevention programs are an important harm reduction measure that helps limit the spread of communicable diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis C, through intravenous drug use. They also reduce crime and needle waste in the surrounding area and give those who use drugs the opportunity to avoid using in public spaces. Overdose prevention programs also relieve pressure on hospital emergency rooms.

This legislation has been introduced several times and was passed by the legislature in 2018 in an earlier form. He was opposed in 2018 by then-Governor Jerry Brown. Legalizing overdose prevention programs has broad support from leaders in San Francisco, Oakland, and Los Angeles County, as well as public health and drug treatment officials.

The following organizations are co-sponsors of SB 57: Drug Policy Alliance, San Francisco AIDS Foundation, California Society of Addiction Medicine, National Harm Reduction Coalition, Healthright 360, Tarzana Treatment Center, and California Association of Alcohol & Drug Program Executives.
Source: Senator Scott Wiener


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