Opinions & Editorials

Keeping the Streets Safe and People Safer

By Rachel Berning


How are we keeping the public safe from San Francisco’s rampant public drug use? Sidewalks and public transportation are open to endless syringe and needle waste, due to the abuse of injected drugs. According to the New York Post, over 52,000 Americans died from overdoses in 2015 at the height of the Opioid Crisis.

Safe injection sites give addicts a safe and monitored place to use, creating a major impact for the addicts.  Safe injection sites already exist in such cities as Philadelphia, New York, and Seattle. A report by Thomas Jefferson University and Main Line Health estimated that a single site in Philadelphia could prevent up to 76 drug overdose deaths per year. In 2017, 1,217 people died from an overdose in Philadelphia. The number of deaths dropped by 8% the next year due to progressive measures, according to the Philly Voice.

Here in San Francisco, Mayor London Breed has made plans for two safe injection sites. She thinks it will help reduce the spread of diseases like HIV and fatal drug overdoses.

“This is not just the conditions that we are tired of seeing out on our streets, this is about saving people’s lives,” Breed said.

Amid legal threats from the Trump administration, the California state legislature will attempt to pass bill AB362, which gives the city legal protections for people involved in operating safe injection sites. 

Safe injection sites outside of the United States have shown to be effective in slowing down the spread of disease and preventing overdoses. These sites have also had success connecting people to addiction treatment services that aid in slowly getting them off drugs. 

It all started in Vancouver, where the first safe injection site opened in 2003. 

“A study released in 2013 by the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS found that the number of users sharing needles in Vancouver dropped from 40% in 1996 to 1.7% in 2011, while the number of people accessing methadone soared from 12% to 54% during that same period,” The Fix reported. This data shows us that these safe injections sites have a major impact.

“Coming here made it easier to focus on doing what I should be doing to try and stay clean, on what I already should have done a long time ago,” a safe injection site user told the Seattle Times.

The woman chose to remain anonymous, perhaps due to the lingering stigma around addiction, and has been living in a supportive housing complex.

San Francisco is not the only city with proposals to build these sites. Ithaca, Denver, and New York are also considering opening supervised injection sites to stop the steady rise of opioid overdose deaths.

Supervised injection sites are a controversial ideology of harm reduction, which views drug use as inevitable from a public standpoint. Those against the construction of safe injection sites worry that it will encourage or condone drug use and threaten the public safety of the neighborhoods they’re built-in, all at a high cost to taxpayers. However, the evidence is clear: supervised injection sites save lives. Shouldn’t that be worth the cost?

Safe injection sites are already helping people. Big cities like San Francisco are in need of safe injection sites so we can keep people safe from overdose and keep drugs off the streets.

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