California Game Changers: Moving the Needle on Drug Reform

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

As excerpted from Capital & Main.

Many harm-reduction programs are already legal in California. You can buy testing kits, for example, and needle-exchange programs qualify for federal funding. But one of the most effective strategies, practiced in Europe and Canada, remains implicitly against state and federal law, despite evidence from other countries that it works: dedicated facilities where people can come to use their drugs in a safe, hygienic environment in the company of trained medical staff. “They increase the amount of people who get into treatment, they increase the amount of people who stay clean, decrease the amount of people who are contracting HIV, Hepatitis, and those kinds of things,” Assemblymember Susan Eggman (D-Stockton) told a press conference on International Overdose Awareness Day, August 31.
Eggman has been at the forefront of a legislative effort to establish legal,  supervised injection facilities in California. Last year, she introduced a bill that would authorize supervised consumption facilities statewide; the bill died in committee without a single vote. This year, she refined her proposal to target only the most embattled counties. California Assembly Bill 186 would have set up pilot programs in Los Angeles, Humboldt, San Francisco, Mendocino, San Joaquin and Alameda counties where, in “a hygienic space supervised by health care professionals,” drug users could “consume preobtained drugs.” The program would expire in 2022, at which point policy makers and law enforcement could assess its success or failure. Eggman’s bill cleared the Assembly and subsequent Senate committees. In a floor vote on September 12, enough Democrats joined Senate Republicans to defeat the bill by two votes.