To the dismay of many San Fran residents, Governor Newsom vetoed SB 57.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has been flooded with complaints from residents who say they want “safe injection sites” legalized in their neighborhoods. California Governor Gavin Newsom, however, vetoed this bill (SB 57) late last month despite angering some supporters that call his move “politics at play” during a public health crisis gripping California. More specifically, they feel the decision will negatively impact one neighborhood especially hard hit by addiction: District 5 (which includes North Beach).
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has never had an openly recovering addict and alcoholic in office. The first member to identify as both is Singaporean-American supervisor David Campos, who was elected at age 39 last year after serving time for drug possession. Campos said, “I am the first member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in a generation to be openly from the substance-abuse disorder recovery community. He continued, “I identify as an addict and an alcoholic. I’ve spent most of my adult life in recovery.”
The problem of illicit fentanyl and other opioids is becoming more prevalent in San Francisco. The drugs have replaced cocaine as being the main drugs associated with overdoses, with deaths on a rise that cannot be stopped, even by Narcan injections.
“What terrifies me,” said Dr. John Dorsey who works at Zuckerberg General Hospital, “ is there are actually synthetic opioids out there on the East Coast that are Narcan-resistant; And, God forbid, if those come to San Francisco, we’re going to see a loss of life that’s worse than the AIDS crisis.”
Governor Newsom’s veto will affect those who are dependent on substances like heroin, cocaine/crack, fentanyl, and other drugs. Typically, underlying mental health issues are also present, and those stuck in the addiction cycle often find it impossible to break free. Because of this, many will overdose and pass away – unmonitored use on the streets is much worse than monitored use at safe injection sites that are also equipped with Narcan in case it needs to be administered. Vetoing the bill also means that addicts will likely continue to engage in needle sharing on the streets, which can lead to contracting Hepatitis C or HIV/AIDS. Safe injection sites offer clean needles, eliminating sharing.
In New York, there is currently one safe injection site, which state officials and site administers claim has prevented at least 283 overdoses in just five months. It has been a huge part of saving the lives of those who might have overdosed on the streets without adequate support. And yet, this statistic didn’t persuade the California Governor.
Jeff Dorsey, the city’s newest 49th busiest emergency responder and CEO of San Francisco Fire Department has called for a more aggressive approach to combating addiction. To back up his request, he is asking for an audit of all departments that deal with this issue in order find out just how much money is being lost due to inadequate response times. The same audit would be helpful in determining how many lives are being lost in the process.