The San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved legislation allowing non-profits to open and operate overdose prevention sites with private funding, Mayor London Breed announced in a news release.
The legislation removed “a recently identified permitting barrier” included in legislation from 2020 that did not allow overdose prevention programs to open until the state authorized the city to do so, regardless of if they were publicly or privately funded, the release said.
“This legislation is part of our work to bring down the number of fatal overdoses and tackle the challenges driven by fentanyl head on,” Breed said. “We will continue to work with our non-profits partners who are trying to open overdose prevention sites, fully implement our health strategies to help those struggling with addiction in our streets, and work with law enforcement to close the open-air drug markets.”
San Francisco recorded 620 drug overdose deaths in 2022, 640 in 2021 and 725 in 2020, according to preliminary data from San Francisco’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and presented by the mayor’s office.
Federal and California state laws currently bar so-called supervised injection sites from using government funds to operate. San Francisco’s 2020 ordinance would allow them to operate but only with state approval which was tied to a bill that died in a State assembly committee that summer. The new ordinance will allow non-profits to move forward with the program by operating on private funds “while the City waits for federal guidance on whether it can fund such programs with public dollars,” according to the news release.
Overdose prevention sites allow users to bring previously obtained drugs, such as heroin and fentanyl, and use them under the supervision of staff trained to respond in the event of an overdose or other medical emergency. They also provide counseling and referrals to other social and health services. Opponents, however, are concerned such sites would promote and normalize drug use and attract crime.
California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill last year that would have created such sites in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Oakland. While recognizing the possible benefits of the program, he warned that a strong plan was needed to avoid “unintended consequences.”
New York became the first state to establish overdose prevention sites in 2021, which are operated by non-profits without public funding and which acted as a model for San Francisco’s ordinance, the release said.