SF Officials Consider City-Run Centers For IV Drug Users

San Francisco moved a step closer to opening city-run health centers where intravenous drug users can shoot up heroin or other illegal drugs.

The city’s top public health official, Barbara Garcia, says she is open to the idea, but there are some big hurdles to clear. For one, so-called "shooting galleries" are against state law.

A site has been targeted on 12th street, near the Civic Center hotel. Five months ago, it was a magnet for used syringes. Today, it’s a navigation center helping the homeless, the kind of center that may take in IV drug users shooting up under the supervision of public health workers.

Lisa Morris is one of the hotel tenants, and she said the prospect of it becoming a safe injection site is fine with her.

"I’ve helped too many friends with overdoses, seen too many friends die," she said.

Supervisor David Campos, who sponsored navigation centers like the one in the Mission district, said state law must be changed to allow centers to help more than the homeless.

"We want to help drug users as well as neighbors," Campos said. "There are needles everywhere. The status quo hasn’t worked. Let's try this."

But some neighbors are skeptical.

"They’re not going to come inside," argued one neighbor, who did not want to be identified. "Wherever they are, that’s where they’re going to do it."

Mayor Ed Lee isn’t so sure, saying "there are many issues with this ... concerns include impact on neighborhoods, medical liability, cost and long-term effectiveness."

Garcia, the public health director, said if state law can be changed, the city would need several centers to deal with the estimated 22,000 IV drug users in the city.

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