Newsom Has Sent a Clear Message of Politics Before People
Los Angeles, CA – Today, California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed SB 57, a bill to pilot overdose prevention programs in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and 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:
“We are incredibly disappointed and heartbroken that Governor Newsom has put his own political ambitions ahead of saving thousands of lives and vetoed this critical legislation. Despite the Governor’s remarks, LA, San Francisco and Oakland have already designated this a priority by authorizing the programs locally and have been standing ready to implement them quickly. We have already engaged local stakeholders in a robust process and they have taken active steps towards implementation in order to be part of the pilot SB 57 would have put in place. We don't need additional processes. What we need is action. Without action, people are going to die,” said Jeannette Zanipatin, California State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “While Newsom plays on the fears that an ‘unlimited’ number of Overdose Prevention Programs could have been opened, this would have been a limited pilot program that was only for five years and three jurisdictions, with an extremely thorough evaluation process. 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. Make no mistake, these deaths are 100 percent avoidable through common-sense, cost-effective measures, like SB 57, but because of his veto, people will continue to die alone and in the shadows.”
“Today’s veto is tragic. For eight years, a broad coalition has worked to pass this life-saving legislation. Each year this legislation is delayed, more people die of drug overdoses — two per day in San Francisco alone,” said Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). “While this veto is a major setback for the effort to save lives and connect people to treatment, we must not and will not let it end this movement. We will continue to fight for an end to the War on Drugs and a focus on drug use and addiction as the health issues that they are.”
"GLIDE is deeply disappointed that SB 57 will not be a reality in California despite an overwhelming and undeniable supportive body of evidence ," says Miguel Bustos, Senior Director of GLIDE's Center for Social Justice. "Overdose prevention programs outlined in this bill would have helped address the overdose crisis by linking people who use drugs to treatment and holistic care. GLIDE will continue to do all it can to advocate for evidence-based solutions to our city's and state's overdose crisis. We believe people's lives are worth saving."
"Harm reduction programs in three California cities were poised and ready to implement overdose prevention programs. Oakland, Los Angeles and San Francisco have done the groundwork, have local support, and this veto leaves entire communities of people who use drugs, the majority of them unhoused, without an essential lifesaving tool," said Laura Guzman, Senior Director of Capacity Building and Community Mobilization at the National Harm Reduction Coalition. "Newsom's veto of SB 57 comes at a time when we lose over 10,000 Californians every year to overdose and have sky rocketing racial disparities in deaths. This veto is completely unjustified."
"ASAM physicians are deeply disappointed for the lives that will be lost from unnecessary overdoses and countless individuals who will be unable to access low barrier treatment because of the veto of SB 57," said David Kan, MD, a past president of the California Society of Additional Medicine.
“HealthRIGHT 360 is extremely disappointed in the Governor’s decision to veto Senate Bill 57, which authorizes Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Francisco to pilot Overdose Prevention Programs. As we observe 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 could have taken to honor those lives and address the national overdose crisis is to sign SB 57 into law,” said Vitka Eisen, CEO, HealthRIGHT 360. “Instead, Governor Newsom has chosen politics over saving lives.”
“We are outraged that Governor Newsom has vetoed SB 57,” said Tyler TerMeer, PhD, CEO of San Francisco AIDS Foundation. “Given the number of fatal overdoses that continue to happen every day in San Francisco and across California, now is the time for us to take bold action in establishing lifesaving overdose prevention programs. We are sending an urgent message to our elected officials that preventing these programs from operating will cost lives.”
“The health risks of IV drug use are extreme, and 130 people die from an overdose every day in the United States. Supervised injection sites work, and this bill could have saved lives,” said Robb Layne, Executive Director of the California Association of Alcohol and Drug Program Executives. “We will continue to fight until we can have substance use disorder treated with parity to other health conditions.”
“In a time, when our communities are being impacted by the opioid epidemic, we need life-saving programs like SB 57,” said Albert Senella, President and Chief Executive Officer of Tarzana Treatment Centers. “It has been a long road to get to where we are today. It is very clear to so many that there is a need for such prevention programs in the fight against the opioid epidemic. Tarzana Treatments Centers is saddened and disappointed with Governor Newsom’s veto of SB 57. This veto means more will die from an opiate overdose and fewer opiate users will make their way to treatment. We could have prevented more loss of life and encouraged many to enter treatment with the enactment of SB 57."
SB 57 would have allowed 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 was to be a pilot program that would have run for five years, through January 1, 2028.
New York City opened the nation’s first two Overdose Prevention Centers last year. Since the sites opened in December 2021, they have already reversed over 400 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.
Many organizations and people have advocated for SB 57, including the Drug Policy Alliance, community-based organizations, 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.