California could allow drug use at supervised sites - Los Angeles Times
Oct 23, 2021 3 mins, 22 secs
As the numbers have soared, many experts, advocates and lawmakers have promoted an idea still fresh to the United States: giving people a safe place to inject drugs under supervision.

The latest California bill, SB 57, envisions them as “a hygienic space supervised by trained staff” where people can use “preobtained drugs,” get sterile supplies and connect to treatment for substance use disorder?

A safe, supervised place to do drugs.

What sways homeless people to get COVID-19 shots.

It could be other homeless people.

There has not been a single death from anyone having an overdose at the site,” said Peter Davidson, an associate professor in the UC San Diego Department of Medicine who helped evaluate the program.

Drug Policy Research Center pored over published research on supervised consumption sites and found it was “almost unanimous in its support, but limited in nature.” Center director Beau Kilmer said “there seems to be little basis for concern about adverse effects,” but the bulk of the studies don’t have a “credible control group” to gauge if results are caused by the facilities themselves.

“It’s well past time that we start piloting supervised consumption sites in the United States and learning from them,” Kilmer said, including assessing how they affect referrals to treatment.

He and Mendoza look out for each other, but he said that for anyone doing drugs outside, “you’re constantly looking over your shoulder,” worrying about someone trying to harass or hurt them.

County officials have tied the synthetic opioid to a surge in overdose deaths among homeless people in recent years.

Latham and Mendoza said they tried to steer clear of fentanyl because of its potency, but it often is mingled with other drugs.

“One person is here, next thing you know he’s gone,” Latham said of the deaths in downtown L.A.

In Los Angeles’ skid row, Darren Willett imagines that if it were allowed, the Center for Harm Reduction could set up cubicles for people to inject their drugs under supervision, then let them hang out in another room under the watchful eye of staff.

“There would be no such thing as an overdose” death, said Willett, director of the center, which is operated by Homeless Health Care Los Angeles.

Instead of demanding that people stop using drugs, the Center for Harm Reduction tries to help them be safer and healthier.

It hands out Narcan — naloxone spray that can pull someone out of an overdose — so that people can save lives on the streets.

The center helps people who are trying to quit drugs, but its goal is to make them safer whether or not they are using.

When a man careened on his bicycle up to the doors of the center, where folding tables had been set up to form a makeshift window, harm reduction specialist Arlene Lemus asked brightly, “What can I get for you, sir?”.

Willett said it is one of the main ways the center measures its success: “Can we keep them alive?”.

When the center surveyed more than 500 people who use drugs about whether they would use such a supervised consumption facility, the vast majority said yes, according to data provided by Willett.

When Brown vetoed supervised consumption sites three years ago, he called the idea “all carrot and no stick” and warned that even if California gave its blessing, it couldn’t immunize the facilities from federal prosecution.

Willett said he would personally be willing to get arrested for the cause, but he worries about putting others at the center at risk

As it stands, the skid row center has hesitated to offer “drug checking” — testing drugs to check their chemical content and make sure users know what they are taking — because of legal concerns

During a poetry class in the back room at the Center for Harm Reduction, Sheridan Bood gently rubbed the shoulder of a woman who had abruptly grown teary after being prompted to write about the word “family.” Others bent over their clipboards, writing intently, as chiming, meditative music played from a smartphone

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