San Francisco is on track to open its first two safe injection sites this July, a milestone that will likely make the city the first in the U.S. to embrace the controversial model of allowing drug users to shoot up under supervision, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Other cities, including Seattle, Baltimore and Philadelphia, are talking about opening their own safe injection facilities, but San Francisco could get there first. Facilities already exist in Canada, Australia and Europe. Barbara Garcia, director of San Francisco’s Department of Public Health, said she is working with six to eight nonprofits that already operate needle exchanges and offer other drug addiction services, and two of them will be selected to offer safe injection on-site.
The city’s fiscal year starts July 1, and Garcia said safe injection should begin “close to that date.” After officials get a sense of how the first two are working, a third and fourth could open, she said. The safe injection sites will initially be privately funded. That will help the city avoid liability, since intravenous drug use is against state and federal law. Asked whether opening the first safe injection sites would place an even bigger target on San Francisco for retribution by the Trump administration, Garcia said, “That’s to be seen. I’m more worried about people dying in our streets.” Today’s San Francisco is one big unsafe injection site, as many of the city’s estimated 22,000 intravenous drug users openly shoot up in plazas, parks and public transit stations with no consequence, often strewing their dirty needles around them. Public health officials believe that 85 percent of the city’s intravenous drug users would use safe injection sites and that the city could save $3.5 million a year in medical costs.