Legal or Not, San Francisco Forges Ahead With Supervised Injection Site for Drug Users

February 9, 2018

San Francisco is on track to open its first two safe injection sites this July, a milestone that will likely make the city the first in the country to embrace the controversial model of allowing drug users to shoot up under supervision.

Other cities — including Seattle, Baltimore and Philadelphia — are talking about opening their own safe injection facilities, but San Francisco could get there first. Facilities already exist in Canada, Australia and Europe.

Barbara Garcia, director of San Francisco’s Department of Public Health, said Monday that she’s tending to the details, including where the facilities will be located. She’s working with six to eight nonprofits that already operate needle exchanges and offer other drug addiction services, and two of them will be selected to offer safe injection on-site.

The city’s fiscal year starts July 1, and Garcia said safe injection should begin “close to that date.” After officials get a sense of how the first two are working, a third and fourth could open, she said.

The safe injection sites will initially be privately funded, though Garcia wouldn’t say where the money’s coming from. She said that will help the city avoid liability, since intravenous drug use is against state and federal law.

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