San Francisco is almost set to allow a pilot a program to let people inject heroin and other drugs under medical supervision in an effort to curb overdose deaths.
The California Assembly voted 41-24 Monday to send Gov. Jerry Brown a bill allowing San Francisco to operate so-called safe injection sites where the city would provide sterile needles and people would be able to use illegal drugs there without fear of arrest.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed said she supports the bill and that the site will save lives.
"We are in a public health crisis and this bill will help us by preventing overdoses while connecting people to medical care that can help treat their addiction," Breed said in a statement.
On Wednesday, Breed is set to visit a full-scale model of a safe injection site at the Glide Foundation in the city's Tenderloin neighborhood.
The model, called Safer Inside, is equipped with supervised injection booths, medical equipment, trained staff and a clinical area that provides users with access to health care and harm reduction services.
Breed has been a longtime advocate for safe injection sites. During her time as supervisor, Breed led a task force which estimated in a September 2017 report that the city could save around $3.5 million a year by opening a safe injection site because of reduced health care costs and increased drug treatment uptake.
The bill was co-authored by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, along with Assemblymember Susan Eggman, D-Stockton, Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, and Assemblymember Laura Friedman, D-Glendale.
Last week in a statement Wiener said, "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."
Wiener added, "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."
But an opponent, Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez of Lake Elsinore, said she worries it will encourage prolonged drug use.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading cause of accidental deaths nationwide is drug overdoses.
In places like Canada and Europe, safe injection sites have been shown to prevent overdose deaths, reduce the spread of diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV, and help get users into services such as drug treatment programs.
Bay City News Contributed to this report.