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Safe Drug Injection Sites

Posted Jan 07 2009 3:05pm

Will San Francisco follow Vancouver’s lead?

San Francisco is on the brink of agreeing to open what would officially be the nation’s first medically supervised injection facility for addicts--despite mixed feelings about the program in the Bay Area.

The Safer Injection Facility is likely to be located in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District, where drug abuse is rampant. If it moves forward, the site will be modeled after an equally controversial Canadian program, the Insite injection facility, established in Vancouver in 2003.

“None of us want to shoot out here in front of kids,” a homeless drug user told theOakland Tribune. “If we had a place to shoot, then we’d also have a place to put our dirty needles, which is a problem out there.” However, there has been considerable community resistance to the idea, say police, with more affluent areas declaring, in essence, “not in my neighborhood.”

The Harm Reduction Coalition (HRC) maintains that the Vancouver safe injection facility has resulted in fewer fatal overdoses, lower disease rates, and more addicts in recovery. HRC defines Safe Injection Facilities as “legally protected places where drug users consume pre-obtained drugs in a non-judgmental environment and receive health care, counseling, and referrals to other health and social services, including drug treatment.

In San Francisco, an injection facility has been an idea in search of a political sponsor for some time. Moreover, advocates can expect no help whatsoever from the federal government. Last year, the Office of National Drug Control Policy said it found preliminary plans for a safe injection site “disconcerting” and called it“poor public policy." An AP/Google report from last year reported that overdoses from injected drugs represented one of every seven emergency calls handled by paramedics in San Francisco.

Last year, Sarah Evans of Vancouver’s Insite center, told the San Francisco Chronicle: “The evidence is really clear that we’re achieving our goals for the users and the community. The more you look into it, the more you realize it’s crazy not to do it.” Not all Canadian politicians agree, however, even though the majority of physicians in the Canadian Medical Association appear to support safe injection sites. Recently, as reported in the Drug War Chronicle, Canadian Health Minister Tony Clement said he would question the ethics of doctors who support the use of safe injection sites for drug addicts.

HRC’s petition for a safer injection facility in San Francisco can be found online at Democracy in Action.


Photo Credit: Inky Circus
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