SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - San Francisco leaders got a walkthrough of a mock safe-injection site on aimed at helping intravenous drug users get support and recovery treatment for drug addiction.
Wednesday's 'Safer Inside' display at Glide Memorial Church in the Tenderloin served as a tool to educate about the sites, which critics say encourages drug use. Proponents argue it takes drug use, which many say is already prevalent in the city, out of open sight. The sites hope to prevent overdoses and benefits the communities affected with overall cleanliness and less needles in the streets.
The California Legislature on Monday passed Assembly Bill 186, which would give the green light for safe injection sites in San Francisco under a three-year pilot.
"We are here today to save lives. That's what this is about. We know that we are in the midst of one of the worst public health crises in recent memory," said Mayor London Breed, who spoke at the event and is pushing for the sites.
Former mayoral candidate Ellen Lee Zhou is opposed to the sites.
"There's no safe illegal drugs," said Zhou. "What we should do is arrest drug dealers and rehab the people instead of encouraging them to do it."
The mock facility features tables with clean syringes, antiseptic wipes and containers to discard used needles. Those touring the site wore headphones and listened to testimonies from drug users.
If this were a real injection site, drugs would not be provided by the facility. The language of the bill says people using the facility would have to use their previously-obtained drugs, under the supervision of trained staff.
There are mirrors so that medical professionals can see if someone using overdoses. They would have Narcan readily available in case anything goes wrong. There's even a "chill room" for people who use the facility before exiting.
Another room offers long-term treatment options for addiction recovery.
Zak Franet was hooked on heroin, but has been clean for three years. He now has his own place and a full time job. He supports the sites.
"I would have loved something like this," he says. "It would have been an engagement with some sort of services, which I wasn't getting at all. We need to do better, sooner rather than later."
The sites would also provide information on a multitude of services including; where to find restrooms, where to shower, find clothing and places where those in need can do laundry.
The bill is now waiting for Governor Jerry Brown's signature. He has not indicated whether or not he will sign it. The safe-injection sites would be illegal under federal law. The Justice Department has threatened to shut them down.
The safe-injection sites would be the first of its kind program in the United States. Programs like this have been successful in cities like Vancouver, Berlin and Zurich.
Bay City News contributed to this report