Gov. Newsom rejects safe injection site bill, citing 'unintended consequences'

Gov. Newsom rejects safe injection site bill, citing ‘unintended consequences’

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday vetoed a bill that would have allowed some cities in California to set up supervised drug consumption sites. The bill, SB57, would have allowed San Francisco, Oakland, and the city and the county of Los Angeles to approve entities to operate the supervised consumption sites, also known as overdose prevention programs, until 2028. “The unlimited number of safe injection sites that this bill would authorize – facilities which could exist well into the later part of this decade — could induce a world of unintended consequences,” the governor wrote in his veto message. “It is possible that these sites would help improve the safety and health of our urban areas, but if done without a strong plan, they could work against this purpose. These unintended consequences in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland cannot be taken lightly. Worsening drug consumption challenges in these areas is not a risk we can take.” In his veto message, the governor also said he would instruct the state’s Secretary of Health and Human Services to gather city and county officials to discuss minimum standards and best practices for safe and sustainable overdose prevention programs. The author of the bill, state Sen. Scott Wiener, has said California is in the midst of an unprecedented overdose crisis, which has been made worse by the coronavirus pandemic. Since 2011, drug overdose has been the leading cause of accidental death among adults in California. Wiener also noted a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found overdose rates nationally doubled in May 2020, compared to 2019. In a statement, Wiener wrote, “Today, California lost a huge opportunity to address one of our most deadly problems: The dramatic escalation in drug overdose deaths. By rejecting a proven and extensively studied strategy to save lives and get people into treatment, this veto sends a powerful negative message that California is not committed to harm reduction.”Opponents of the bill, including law enforcement groups, applauded the governor’s decision.”This is clearly a challenging issue affecting our entire state,” said President of the California State Sheriffs Association and Butte County Sheriff, Kory Honea. “We will continue our efforts to protect our communities but permitting ‘lawful’ drug use is not the answer,” added Honea”I look forward to working with the Governor and my legislative colleagues to find solutions to tackle the root cause of this issue and get individuals suffering from opioid addiction the compassionate treatment they need,” said Senator Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh (R- Yucaipa).The sites would have been required to provide a hygienic space supervised by trained staff, sterile consumption supplies, used equipment collection, and secure hypodermic needle and syringe disposal services. Staff would have been required to monitor participants for potential overdose and provide treatment as necessary to prevent fatal overdose, plus access or referrals to substance use disorder, and mental health treatment services. There are 165 overdose prevention programs in 10 different countries. New York was the first to authorize the sites in the United States in 2021. Wiener’s office noted Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Philadelphia are moving forward with plans to establish the sites.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday vetoed a bill that would have allowed some cities in California to set up supervised drug consumption sites.

The bill, SB57, would have allowed San Francisco, Oakland, and the city and the county of Los Angeles to approve entities to operate the supervised consumption sites, also known as overdose prevention programs, until 2028.

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“The unlimited number of safe injection sites that this bill would authorize – facilities which could exist well into the later part of this decade — could induce a world of unintended consequences,” the governor wrote in his veto message. “It is possible that these sites would help improve the safety and health of our urban areas, but if done without a strong plan, they could work against this purpose. These unintended consequences in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland cannot be taken lightly. Worsening drug consumption challenges in these areas is not a risk we can take.”

In his veto message, the governor also said he would instruct the state’s Secretary of Health and Human Services to gather city and county officials to discuss minimum standards and best practices for safe and sustainable overdose prevention programs.

The author of the bill, state Sen. Scott Wiener, has said California is in the midst of an unprecedented overdose crisis, which has been made worse by the coronavirus pandemic. Since 2011, drug overdose has been the leading cause of accidental death among adults in California. Wiener also noted a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found overdose rates nationally doubled in May 2020, compared to 2019.

In a statement, Wiener wrote, “Today, California lost a huge opportunity to address one of our most deadly problems: The dramatic escalation in drug overdose deaths. By rejecting a proven and extensively studied strategy to save lives and get people into treatment, this veto sends a powerful negative message that California is not committed to harm reduction.”

Opponents of the bill, including law enforcement groups, applauded the governor’s decision.

“This is clearly a challenging issue affecting our entire state,” said President of the California State Sheriffs Association and Butte County Sheriff, Kory Honea. “We will continue our efforts to protect our communities but permitting ‘lawful’ drug use is not the answer,” added Honea

“I look forward to working with the Governor and my legislative colleagues to find solutions to tackle the root cause of this issue and get individuals suffering from opioid addiction the compassionate treatment they need,” said Senator Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh (R- Yucaipa).

The sites would have been required to provide a hygienic space supervised by trained staff, sterile consumption supplies, used equipment collection, and secure hypodermic needle and syringe disposal services. Staff would have been required to monitor participants for potential overdose and provide treatment as necessary to prevent fatal overdose, plus access or referrals to substance use disorder, and mental health treatment services.

There are 165 overdose prevention programs in 10 different countries. New York was the first to authorize the sites in the United States in 2021. Wiener’s office noted Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Philadelphia are moving forward with plans to establish the sites.

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