California Poised to be the Second State in the U.S. to Adopt this Evidence-Based Public Health Approach to Address the Overdose Crisis
Los Angeles, CA – Yesterday, the California State Legislature passed SB 57, a bill to pilot Overdose Prevention Programs in the City and County of Los Angeles and San Francisco, and the City of Oakland. The bill was authored by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance—along with other co-sponsoring organizations, including the California Society of Additional Medicine (CSAM), GLIDE, HealthRIGHT 360, California Association of Alcohol and Drug Program Executives. In response, Senator Scott Wiener, the Drug Policy Alliance and SB 57’s other co-sponsoring organization, and supporting organizations, released the following statements:
“This is incredibly long overdue. In 2021 alone, California lost over 10,000 residents to the overdose crisis, and we are continuing to see it disproportionately claim the lives of people of color throughout the state. By passing SB 57 and embracing this cost-effective evidence-based public health intervention, the Legislature is making it abundantly clear that saving lives is its top priority,” said Jeannette Zanipatin, California State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “With countless lives hanging in the balance, we urge Governor Newsom to sign the bill without delay, so that we can adequately confront this crisis through the implementation of Overdose Prevention Programs and begin providing people the support they need.”
“California — like our nation as a whole — is experiencing a dramatic and preventable increase in overdose deaths, and we need every available tool to help people stay alive and get healthy,” said Senator Wiener. “Safe consumption sites are a proven model to help people avoid overdose deaths, reduce HIV and hepatitis transmission, reduce syringe litter, and help people access treatment. This legislation isn’t about whether we want people to use drugs. Rather, it’s an acknowledgment that people *are* using drugs, and our choice is whether we want to make every effort to help them survive and get healthy. The time has come for California to adopt this proven overdose death prevention strategy.”
"In California, overdose has been the leading cause of accidental death every year since 2011. Overdose prevention programs, authorized by Senate Bill 57, are overwhelmingly proven to produce positive outcomes for people who use drugs. California should follow the science. These evidence-based public health interventions prevent overdose deaths, connect people to dignified services, increase entry into treatment, and are extremely cost-effective. GLIDE is proud to co-sponsor Senate Bill 57, and we are deeply grateful for Senator Scott Wiener’s leadership as the bill has now passed the Legislature. We are hopeful that Governor Gavin Newsom will swiftly and enthusiastically sign the bill, and enable San Francisco, Oakland, and Los Angeles to pilot and evaluate these powerful, life-saving interventions,” said Miguel Bustos, Senior Director of the GLIDE Center for Social Justice.
“When Governor Newsom signs this Bill into law, he will not only save uncounted lives from unnecessary death but will also create a pathway into treatment for thousands of Californians for whom there is currently little hope of recovery,” said David Kan, MD, past president of the California Society of Additional Medicine (CSAM).
“HealthRIGHT 360 commends the California State Legislature for the passage of Senate Bill 57, which authorizes Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Francisco to pilot Overdose Prevention Programs. As we enter Overdose Awareness Month when we continue to remember so many lives of family members and friends lost to overdose, one of the greatest most immediate actions Governor Newsom can take to honor those lives and address the national overdose crisis is to sign SB 57 into law,” stated Vitka Eisen, CEO, HealthRIGHT 360.
"It is time that California joins the long list of places across the world that offer lifesaving overdose prevention programs. OPPs have a strong research base and reduce HIV and hepatitis transmission, keep people alive, do not increase crime in the areas around the sites, and reduce syringe litter. These programs are just one of the tools we need to address the Substance Use Disorder epidemic and provide critical services to those who need these lifesaving harm reduction services. We implore Governor Newsom to sign SB 57," said Robb Layne, Executive Director, CA Association of Alcohol and Drug Program Executives, Inc.
“The fight to end overdose in California must include all evidence-based strategies and interventions. Overdose Prevention Projects are proven to save lives. Harm Reduction programs in three California cities are ready to implement these programs now and start reducing needless death. National Harm Reduction Coalition calls on Governor Newsom to act now by signing SB 57 into law,” said Laura Guzman, Sr. Director of Capacity Building & Community Mobilization with the National Harm Reduction Coalition.
“We thank the legislature for supporting SB 57 and putting the needs of people first by siding with science and sending a clear message that overdose prevention programs should be piloted in California. As frontline harm reduction workers we witness first-hand the devastation of overdose death as a result of stigma and isolation. Overdose death is preventable. We urge the community to insist no more people have to die. All eyes are on you Governor Newsom, we urge you to sign SB 57 to prioritize saving lives,” said Soma Snakeoil, Executive Director and Co-Founder of The Sidewalk Project.
“Overdose Prevention Centers have a long-proven history of working to save people's lives. In 35 years, there has not been one reported overdose death in these spaces. Yet, our people are dying, and OPCs are the solution to negate this public health emergency. Today we are one step closer to helping our participants stay alive,” said Elham Jalayer, Harm Reduction Program Manager for Bien Estar.
“The overdose crisis has claimed the lives of 100,000 people nationwide and over 1,000 lives in Los Angeles. The loss of life is huge, we need to find a way to keep people safe and alive and overdose prevention programs have proven to accomplish that. There are over 100 OPCs worldwide. Countries that open them, actually open more. Why? Because they work. California needs safe consumption sites in the areas at highest risk now,” said Dr. David Goodman-Meza, Assistant Professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
SB 57, once signed by the Governor, will allow the County and City of San Francisco and Los Angeles and the City of Oakland to pilot Overdose Prevention Programs (OPP), an evidence-based public health intervention, where facilities are set up to allow people to use pre-obtained drugs under the supervision of trained professionals to prevent and treat overdose, prevent HIV and hepatitis infection, and facilitate entry into evidence-based drug treatment and other services. These jurisdictions have continued to see overdose rates rise at alarming rates, disproportionately in communities of color, and there is a desperate need to provide community members who use drugs with a safe space where they can seek support without judgement, coercion or discrimination.
SB 57 is a pilot program that will run for five years, through January 1, 2028.
California follows in the footsteps of New York City, which opened the nation’s first two Overdose Prevention Centers last year. Since the sites opened in December 2021, they have already reversed over 300 overdoses.
Overdose Prevention Centers, also known as safer consumption spaces or supervised consumption sites, have been in operation in Europe since the 1980s and in Canada since 2003—there are now nearly 200 sites operating worldwide. These sites have been rigorously evaluated and are proven to prevent and reduce overdose deaths among clients, increase client enrollment in drug treatment services, reduce nuisances associated with public injection, such as discarded needles and public intoxication, and save public resources. Millions of injections have taken place at some of them, yet not one overdose death has been documented in these facilities.
Momentum for safer consumption spaces is building across the country, with a bill to establish pilot centers in Rhode Island becoming law last year, and movement in Philadelphia, King County in Washington State, and Maryland, Vermont, Maine and Massachusetts all introducing legislation to approve the sites. Beyond academic research, a growing body of editorial boards and opinion pieces have highlighted the need: New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Albany Times-Union, New York Daily News, Baltimore Sun, Seattle Times, Bloomberg News, Los Angeles Times, New Jersey Star-Ledger, and the Boston Globe.
The passage of SB 57 is a victory made possible by years of advocacy by the Drug Policy Alliance and other co-sponsoring organizations collaborating with people with lived experience; families directly impacted by the overdose crisis; harm reduction experts; community-based service providers; health and treatment advocates and professionals; and county, city and state elected officials who have requested the authorization to implement and evaluate overdose prevention programs in their respective jurisdictions.
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.