AB 186 – Safe Injection Site Authorization

Apologies for the major hiatus: I am in transition, from my full-time job back to freelance writing and grad school! I’m getting my MPH/MJ at UC Berkeley. But anyways, no one reads this blog for updates on my life. In fact, I haven’t written in so long, I’m afraid no one reads this blog at all.

I’m currently working on a story about increases in Hepatitis C in California, particularly among young adults. Hep C is primarily transmitted through contaminated needles, meaning injection drug users are highly at risk and that an increase in injection drug use is probably to blame for the spike in transmission. This is a health issue that interests me a great deal, so I’m surprised I hadn’t written about this one before, but I caught it in the nick of time. The Legislature is on summer recess and will be back on August 21. After that, bills only have until September 15 to get passed before they are dead.

AB 186 has made it through both the assembly and senate committees–all that’s left is a senate vote.

The Basics

  • Would authorize eight counties to pilot safe injection site programs. These facilities would be hygenic and supervised by medical professionals. They would also provide opportunities for referrals to treatment and harm reduction education.

In Depth

A couple weeks ago when I was down in San Diego talking to Robert Lewis, who is Director of Special Populations at the Family Health Centers of San Diego. When I asked about the efficacy of syringe service programs, his response was basically, “Well, that was a softball question.” He cited research saying that syringe exchanges and other programs that help people get clean needles have been proven again and again to reduce Hepatitis C transmission rates. In the research I did for my article, I found this study that indicated that the vast majority of people with Hep C live more than 10 miles away from a safe syringe service.

What I’m particularly interested in is the cost. Who is funding this? Is it sustainable if we find it to be successful in the eight counties where it is piloted? Would we save money on other healthcare costs? Where would those savings come in (this Sacramento Bee article addresses this a bit)? Less Hep C or other injection related infections? Here are some of the answers I’ve found in my cursory research: The bill doesn’t mention funding for the facilities–it is just an authorization for them to exist, since using the illicit substances people will inject there is technically illegal. This begs the question–how will implementation happen? Are there already facilities that exist?

Check out the bill’s text for more information. The main opposition comes from law enforcement organizations concerned about increases in drug-related crime and conflict with federal law. Check out the analysis for specifics of arguments in favor and opposition.

Who to Call

Media Coverage


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