Two cities in the US had opened an area wherein heroin addicts can use drugs without being arrested or also known as the safe injection space. These are San Francisco and Philadelphia. While there are now safe injection sites in the cities, it could be a long time before they become a working facility as there have been measures made to prevent more openings of this site.
Despite that, San Francisco still opened a site and held a mock safe injection site, made by a lot of non-profit and community groups for the public in the Tenderloin District, where there are a lot of homeless and addicted residents.
Capitol One Design Pro Bono designed it so that it could help inform the people there are about what injection facilities are. This resulted in a place looking like a welcoming high-end private medical clinic due to its stools you can sit on while injecting, and the chill rooms.
This was based on the ones in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2003. Melbourne also had one in 2017. The Drug Policy Alliance claims that there are 120 sites like this in 12 countries globally. They usually provide kits which include an overdose antidote and needles in different sizes as well as syringe disposal containers.
Medical professionals lead some facilities while some are by community peers. Seattle looks at making a mobile version of one and New York is looking to create one for medical research. Some people question its effectiveness in other cities since it worked in Vancouver out of fear of having an opiate crisis.
Research showed that medicalizing the use of illegal drugs can be an excellent public health strategy as it provides better tools which can prevent diseases like HIV. Having services for the homeless and addicted can also connect the addicted population to the health professionals. While crimes decrease, it did not affect the sharing of a syringe.
Studies on the Vancouver site showed that it reduced the litter of syringes publicly and the injection in public. Needle-sharing also decreased. But the site cannot cure addiction or stop drug use. It’s meant to prevent people from dying from an overdose.
In the US, deaths due to overdose went up to 72,000 in 2017, which doubled compared to the last decade. However, plans to create more facilities to prevent this failed like in King’s County wherein there had been plans to open two new facilities. Most of the hesitance and resistance comes from the fear that injection sites might increase drug use and drug-related crimes.
However, advocates say that users will still find a way to use drugs even in public. In San Francisco, there are already sanctioned injection sites which just happened to be sidewalks, restrooms, and other public places.
Jenny Kempson consulted Union of San Francisco Drug Users’ and saw that the site had to have a vast distance between each booth to allow safe handling of overdose. There should also be flat spaces for homeless users.
The site is also located in a community hub. There is a walk-in center where people can get bus tokens and shelter reservations. There is also the HealthRIGHT360, which can help poor residents with getting a physician. The Lava Mae also provides free public showers during Mondays.
There were 1000+ visitors to the mock facility which included officials from Department of Homelessness and the Community Police Advisory Board and Mayor London Breed.
The exhibit was able to show the community the advantages and limits of the facility like having to line up as there are thousands of injection users in the city. GLIDE hopes that there would be more sites in the future. There are “ifs” due to the Justice Department and “when” as the bill is just waiting to be signed.
Solving the housing crisis could solve the drug use problem in the streets because if people had a house, they wouldn’t be doing it publicly.