San Francisco To Become First City in U.S. to Implement Supervised Consumption Services (SCS)

Press Release February 6, 2018
Media Contact

Laura Thomas 415-283-6366
Tony Newman 646-335-5384

In a vote this afternoon, the San Francisco Health Commission is expected to approve a measure authorizing the Department of Public Health to move forward with making their city the first in the U.S. to implement supervised consumption services.

Supervised consumption services (SCS) are legally-sanctioned facilities proven to reduce the health and public order issues often associated with public injection. These facilities provide a space for people to consume pre-obtained drugs in controlled settings, under the supervision of trained staff, and with access to sterile injecting equipment. Participants can also receive health care, counseling, and referrals to health and social services, including drug treatment.

Numerous peer-reviewed studies have consistently shown that supervised consumption services are effective at reducing overdose deaths, preventing transmission of HIV and viral hepatitis, reducing street-based drug use and syringe disposal, and linking people who use drugs to treatment and other services.

There are approximately 120 sites providing SCS currently operating in over 65 cities around the world in twelve countries – but none in the U.S.  In the past two years alone, Canada has grown from two authorized sites to 30.

Support is growing rapidly across the country for these services in the face of dramatic increases in drug overdose deaths. Numerous other cities, including Philadelphia and Seattle, are in the process of opening sites. The Drug Policy Alliance, the San Francisco Drug Users Union, and other groups have been working to educate community members and elected officials about the benefits of SCS for over ten years. San Francisco Board of Supervisors President London Breed created a city-wide task force last year to evaluate the need and the evidence. The task force unanimously recommended that the city move forward to implement supervised injection services.

“Make no doubt about it: this will save a lot of lives,” said Laura Thomas, California State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “It’s taken years to get here, but San Francisco is poised to do the right thing for all of us, including people who use drugs, and help keep our neighborhoods safer and healthier. I’m proud that San Francisco has the courage to follow the science and the evidence and implement supervised consumption services.”

“Supervised injection services are a win-win for San Francisco,” said Holly Bradford, Director of the San Francisco Drug Users Union. “It’s a win for the public health and a win for the public safety of our city. Lives will be saved here just as they are in similar facilities around the world. Once again San Francisco demonstrates its ability to lead the nation in another scientifically-based move to treat drug users with dignity, compassion and respect.”

The American Medical Association, California Society of Addiction Medicine, California Association of Drug and Alcohol Program Executives, AIDS United, and amfAR, among others, have called for the piloting and evaluation of SCS as part of a continuum of care to prevent fatal drug overdoses, prevent transmission of HIV & hepatitis C, and to provide a low-threshold entry point for drug treatment, medical care, social services and mental healthcare.

Even President Trump’s Surgeon General has said SCS should be piloted and evaluated in the United States, pursuant to local control.

In a recent poll of registered voters in San Francisco, 67% said they back the idea — 45 percent strongly and 22 percent somewhat. The poll found support for the sites regardless of age or homeownership. This is consistent with polling DPA commissioned in 2016 which found 72% support — 34% strongly and 38% somewhat.

“These sites have been proven to help reduce public drug use and improperly disposed syringes in 11 other countries; now we can evaluate whether it will have the same effect in San Francisco,” said Alex Kral, PhD, Director of the Urban Health Program at RTI International.

For more information, see:

Correction: An earlier version of this press release incorrectly stated that New York City is in the process of opening a supervised consumption site.  Instead, New York City is currently in the process of conducting a SCS feasibility study that has yet to be released.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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