San Francisco plans to move forward in allowing a non-profit to open up a safe consumption site despite Gov. Gavin Newsom’s veto of a bill, Senate Bill 57, that would have legalized the sites at the state level.
City Attorney David Chiu indicated in a statement to The Standard that the city plans to back a local non-profit in opening a safe consumption site, which are banned federally under the Controlled Substances Act.
“San Francisco must continue to work to address our opioid overdose crisis. To save lives, I fully support a non-profit moving forward now with New York’s model of overdose prevention programs,” said City Attorney David Chiu.
Mayor London Breed echoed those sentiments in a statement, writing that “we know implementing overdose prevention programs is a key step in our efforts to help people struggling with addiction.”
Breed said the city will continue its conversations with the federal government, which is expected to release rules about opening such sites as part of a settlement in a Philadelphia court case.
SB 57 would have protected the medical licenses of doctors and nurses who may staff these sites, according to the City Attorney’s Office. The city has already purchased two buildings with the stated goal of opening a safe consumption site.
In January, the city opened a facility called the Tenderloin Center under an emergency ordinance declared by Mayor London Breed that morphed into a de-facto safe consumption site. That site was run in part by the nonprofit HealthRight360.
While more than 140 overdoses have been reversed at the Tenderloin Center since its opening, the site also drew harsh scrutiny for an apparent lack of success in connecting guests to substance use treatment. The center is slated to close at the end of the year.
Gary McCoy, a policy director at HealthRight360, said that the challenge in opening a safe consumption site through a nonprofit will be finding private funding to do so.
“I commend the City Attorney for having the courage the governor did not in immediately moving forward with these sites,” McCoy said.
Sources pointed to Healthright360, Glide and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation as nonprofits that would potentially work with the city in opening safe consumption sites.
Laura Thomas, director of harm reduction policy at the AIDS Foundation, said that her organization is interested in working with the city in opening a site.
“It’s certainly not a secret that we are very interested in adding these services,” Thomas said.
Correction: This story has been updated to clarify that SB 57 would have provided legal protections for doctors and nurses who staff safe consumption sites, according to the City Attorney. However, the bill does not require doctors and nurses to staff the sites.
David Sjostedt can be reached at [email protected]