In February 2018, San Francisco’s Department of Public Health announced that the city was weighing the viability of piloting two Safe Injection Sites for intravenous drug users.
In this era of opioid crisis (to illustrate the magnitude of this issue with a single data point: in 2016 alone, drug overdose deaths numbered more than the U.S. death toll from the entire Vietnam War and the trend is worsening), leaders in many cities across the U.S. are considering evidence-based approaches such as Safe Injection Sites (that are already working in other countries) to contain the epidemic. In San Francisco, the Department of Public Health’s announcement comes less than a year after the Board of Supervisors appointed a task force to determine the feasibility of a Safe Injection Site operating in San Francisco. The task force found strong evidence in support of the idea.
San Francisco is poised to be the first city in the U.S. to open a Safe Injection Site. The event would have great significance for the communities that St. Anthony’s has served for more than 60 years. This month, St. Anthony’s is partnering with GLIDE Memorial Church, the Tenderloin Health Improvement Partnership, and a consortium of other local community organizations to present a full-scale, operational demonstration model of a Safe Injection Site here in our Tenderloin neighborhood. The purpose of the temporary installation is to showcase the ways in which Safe Injection Sites may save lives that would otherwise be lost to overdoses, provide a bridge to treatment, reduce disease transmission and hospitalizations, and contribute to public safety for the community in the surrounding area. The week-long exhibition of the Safe Injection Site model will provide education through interactive displays, experiential learning through guided tours, and community engagement through multiple events, including speaker panels and forums. The collaborative project will also illustrate the integration of a safe injection site into an existing multi-service organization (GLIDE as host organization) in the Tenderloin.
It is important that the St. Anthony’s community unites in attending this educational opportunity to ensure that our response to Safe Injection Sites is an informed choice. The demonstration project and exhibition will allow area residents, community organizations, members of the press, law enforcement, researchers, San Francisco city agencies, and more to experience a realistic model of supervised injection booths and its harm reduction services. Entering the physical space will offer the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of how a Safe Injection Site functions and whether it offers a humane approach to improving health and safety for all Tenderloin residents, especially those who inject drugs. For one week, the exhibition will be a gathering place for the community to learn, share, and explore the implications of Safe Injection Sites together in San Francisco.
Additional educational resources on Safe Injection Sites:
Image by Eric Molina via Wikimedia Commons