Matt Sutton 212-613-8026
January 26, 2020 – Los Angeles, CA – Today, in response to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approving a plan to bring life-saving overdose prevention programs to the county and formally join the pilot program outlined in SB 57, proposed by Sen. Scott Wiener in the state legislature, Jeannette Zanipatin, California State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance, released the following statement:
“As the overdose crisis continues to tragically claim the lives of LA residents and is being exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic, the LA County Board of Supervisors has shown true leadership by declaring overdose prevention a priority. These programs provide an evidence-based, cost-effective approach for us to save lives now, prevent the spread of infectious diseases, and connect people with other vitally important services—such as treatment, housing and other healthcare resources—which have been shown to improve health outcomes in the long-term.
The passage of this motion further highlights the commitment of the board to adopt interventions to break the cycle of incarceration and place individuals who are experiencing issues related to substance use, mental health or homelessness away from our criminal legal system and instead place them squarely within the public health arena.
Now the baton—and the countless lives that depend on it—is in the hands of state legislators to urgently carry it through the legislature, by passing SB 57, this session.”
California State Senator Scott Wiener (San Francisco) introduced SB 57, a bill to bring overdose prevention programs to California, in December 2020 on the first day of the state legislative session. The Drug Policy Alliance—along with other co-sponsoring organizations, including the California Association of Alcohol and Drug Program Executives, California Society of Addiction Medicine, HealthRIGHT 360, National Harm Reduction Coalition, Tarzana Treatment Centers, San Francisco AIDS Foundation and a growing statewide coalition—have launched a vigorous legislative campaign to pilot Overdose Prevention Programs (OPP) in San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles County, where the homeless crisis continues to grow, overdose rates have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and fentanyl-related deaths are surging.
The co-sponsors represent public health and substance use disorder (SUD) treatment professionals, addiction medicine doctors, people who use drugs, harm reduction and drug policy advocates, and HIV and hepatitis C service providers. SB 57 will focus on the urgent need for these life-saving programs in the wake of the nation’s growing overdose crisis, which kills more people than traffic accidents, homicides and suicides combined.
SB 57 is aligned with the Board’s Care First, Jail Last vision, because it opens the opportunity to treat substance use as a public health issue. The scientific literature in support of overdose prevention programs is voluminous and has shown that OPPs reduce the number of overdoses, reduce the transmission of infectious diseases and increase the number of individuals initiating treatment without increasing crime where these programs are located. The pandemic continues to affect the most vulnerable populations in LA County, particularly those who are at the intersection of homelessness and drug use. Alternative models, such as OPPs, have proven effective at connecting these hard to reach populations with services to improve their quality of life.