SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – As the opioid epidemic takes more and more lives every day, California drug groups say they have a solution to stop deadly overdoses: safe houses where addicts can safely inject drugs.
California lawmakers are getting ready to consider whether to legalize these sites. It’s an unconventional idea but will it work or will it trigger more use?
Dr. Taeko Frost has seen too many deadly overdoses in her lifetime – many she’s successfully reversed. But she says the problem only gets worse when addicts use drugs alone.
“We see a lot of people who are hiding their drug use and they may be at risk of overdose,” she said.
Her solution? Supervised injection sites where users would be allowed to shoot themselves with drugs like heroin and smoke hard drugs, under medical supervision.
Drug groups are promoting it as a lifesaving approach to the opioid overdose problem and Democratic lawmakers are listening.
“You have to place them in places where there’s already a high problem with people overdosing,” said Assemblywoman Susan Eggman, (D)-Stockton.
Assemblywoman Eggman’s bill would allow eight counties, from San Francisco to Los Angeles, to try these injection sites.
The closest thing to it is in Vancouver. At “Insite,” a user sits at a mirrored, lit booth and shoots up with sterile supplies, and supervision.
The facility claims it’s prevented 6,440 overdoses in 13 years, and placed more than 4500 people into treatment.
Despite the evidence, critics call it a deadly idea.
“You are enabling the addict. And deepening their addiction,” said Pastor Ronnie Allen.
Sacramento Pastor Allen says he speaks from experience.
“If anyone would offer me at that time a free place to smoke crack, it would have been a wonderful time for me. But I would have never … recovered,” he said.
The only safe place Pastor Allen supports is rehab. But advocates say treatment is just not enough.
“We need to try a new intervention. What we’re doing isn’t working and we know this works,” said Dr. Frost.
The bill passed in Assembly last month. And that’s the furthest any state has gotten to legalizing injection sites. But it faces a new hurdle July 5, when it heads to a Senate Health Committee. It needs to pass there in order to move on to the Senate.