Mayor’s office takes action to potentially open supervised consumption center

The London Breed Mayor’s Office is taking action to potentially open a supervised consumption center – a victory for advocates who pushed it to declare a state of emergency around the drug overdose crisis in San Francisco.

The Chronicle of San Francisco broke history on November 16.

Subsequently, Breed spokesman Jordan Wilson told the Bay Area Reporter that Breed presented legislation to the supervisory board on Tuesday that, if approved, allows the purchase of a site in the net that could be used for this purpose.

The site, at the corner of Geary and Hyde streets, consists of an 8,875 square foot building and an adjacent 2,186 square foot parking lot, Wilson said. It would be purchased with Proposal C funds for $ 6.3 million.

“The legislation is not prescriptive about the type of services that would be provided on the site,” Wilson said, but his purchase is “a first step towards [the] possibility “of opening a place of supervised consumption.

“The city is pursuing a policy that could allow the opening of the first safe consumption site in San Francisco to address the overdose crisis in our city, starting in the spring of next year,” Wilson said. “We are discussing with our nonprofit partners their ability to open and implement safe consumption programs directly for those in need.”

The city government is also exploring creating a program to partner with non-profit organizations in operating the facility, “identifying potential locations and developing a strategy to ensure surrounding areas see a noticeable difference in our streets, ”Wilson said.

“In addition to council approval, we will be looking at other steps before deciding to open a safe consumption site on part of this property. [at Geary and Hyde]including contacting the appropriate state and federal authorities, ”Wilson continued.

The move comes weeks after the board of directors unanimously passed a resolution from District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney on Oct. 26 calling on Breed to declare a state of emergency around the overdose crisis. drugs in the city, as BAR previously reported. Haney District 6 includes the net.

Haney, who is also running for the state assembly seat that was vacant when MP David Chiu became city attorney, introduced the state of emergency resolution in September urging the mayor to take measures to pave the way for the authorization, financing and implementation of city supervision. consumption facilities.

“I think the resolution we just adopted has had an impact,” Haney told BAR.

“People are dying from overdoses every day and public drug use is rampant. The net is the zero point of the overdose epidemic. We need to get people in and out of the streets. safe and in care and treatment now. We can’t wait any longer, “he said. “Supervised injection sites save lives, and if the mayor and city attorney are ready to move forward, which I hope I will work closely with the neighborhood and health care providers. health to make sure we do it efficiently and safely. Let’s go ahead, it will save lives. “

Supervised consumption sites, or supervised injection centers, are places where drug users can consume pre-obtained drugs under the watchful eye of trained personnel. Advocates argue there is a need to implement in San Francisco, where the number of accidental drug overdoses has risen dramatically from 259 in 2018 to 712 in 2020 – and is on track for a death toll similar this year.

Breed declared a state of emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic on February 25, 2020, before a single case was confirmed in San Francisco; but in 2020, the city lost more than twice as many people to accidental drug overdoses as it did to COVID-19.

Legal support from the city would be needed to potentially prevent site operators from being prosecuted under the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986. Signed by then-President Ronald Reagan as part of the war on drugs, this law made the management or maintenance of a “drug-related premises” (that is, where illegal drugs are openly used) a federal crime. (The penalties enacted in this law were extended by the Anti-Proliferation of Illicit Drugs Act of 2003, which was introduced by then-senator Joe Biden, who is now president, and signed by the president of the era, George W. Bush.)

For this reason, Breed had so far supported opening supervised consumption facilities only if the laws were changed first. An effort by gay state senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) to do just that has been delayed until at least January.

In a Nov. 16 statement, Wiener wrote: “I applaud Mayor Breed’s decision to go ahead with the purchase of a site to use for a number of behavioral health needs that we have in San Francisco, including a potential safe consumption site. “

“Right now, a huge amount of drugs in San Francisco are happening on our streets,” Wiener continued. “Safe consumption sites get people off the streets and are a harm reduction measure so people can use it more safely. They save countless lives; data from sites operating around the world tell us that. Narcan, which reverses overdoses. Drug testing kits are also available. Once people are ready, they can also use these sites to connect to treatment and other important resources. “

Haney presented his emergency resolution at the behest of longtime gay activist Gary McCoy, who has battled drug addiction himself.

McCoy, who is director of policy and public affairs for HealthRIGHT 360 and co-chair of the Alice B. Toklas LGBTQ Democratic Club, held a hunger strike outside City Hall in August to urge action, like the BAR previously reported.

Speaking to BAR on November 16, McCoy said he was still “dealing with” development, but that was “great news.”

“I think a lot of us lawyers have heard rumblings over the past two weeks, but weren’t sure until today,” he said. “I haven’t spoken to the mayor yet. However, I called the mayor’s office and thanked the staff.… This is a big deal for people who use drugs and people who struggle.”

McCoy said he was “very excited” by the possibility.

“I think it’s very courageous given the legality that everyone is facing,” he said, adding that he was grateful for Chiu’s support.

When asked if he had heard that Chiu was going to support the opening of a facility, McCoy told BAR that “I didn’t hear that he would support in his capacity as the town’s lawyer. , but I heard he was working there – he certainly supported him as a member of the assembly, and even sat down with me to support me during my hunger strike a bit at the city ​​Hall. “

Chiu spokeswoman Jen Kwart said the city attorney’s office was providing legal advice to the city on this matter.

“The city is proposing to purchase property for behavioral health services, which could potentially include a safe consumption site, among a number of other uses,” she said. “We strive to provide the city’s decision-makers with the best possible legal advice on this matter and look forward to conversations with the appropriate federal and state government authorities. “

David Campos, a gay man who is currently on leave as chief of staff to San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin; Thea Selby, a direct ally who is an administrator of the City College of San Francisco; and Bilal Mahmood, a direct ally who is a former Obama administration official, are also all running for the vacant Assembly seat vacated by Chiu earlier this month.

In a statement, Campos told BAR that “as the person who first proposed the opening of a supervised injection site five years ago, I congratulate Mayor Breed for taking this measure. We cannot afford to lose another life because of the overdose crisis. as soon as humanly possible. “

Selby and Mahmood did not immediately return requests for comment.

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