Capitol Alert

No supervised heroin use in California after ‘safe injection sites’ bill fails

A discarded syringe lies near the railroad tracks between 19th and 20th streets in Sacramento. Nationally, opioid and heroin overdose deaths are way up since 1999.
A discarded syringe lies near the railroad tracks between 19th and 20th streets in Sacramento. Nationally, opioid and heroin overdose deaths are way up since 1999. dmorain@sacbee.com

A controversial proposal allowing some California communities to experiment with a new way to handle drug addiction has failed this legislative session.

Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton, announced Friday evening that she will try again next year to pass Assembly Bill 186, which would have authorized eight counties with heavy intravenous drug use to create pilot “safe injection sites.” Adults could bring heroin or other drugs they have already obtained to the facilities and use them under the supervision of medical professionals.

Supporters argued that addiction should be treated as a public health issue rather than a crime. Research on these facilities in other countries has found that they reduce overdoses and steer more people toward rehabilitative services.

“It doesn’t work to just say, ‘Don’t do it,’” Eggman said. “This is not enabling anyone. This is about getting people into treatment.”

But law enforcement led a fierce opposition campaign to the measure, contending that government-run “shooting galleries” would normalize drug use and attract more crime.

While the Assembly narrowly advanced AB 186 in June, it fell two votes of passage in the Senate earlier this week. Eggman said many lawmakers are still afraid of the idea of “safe injection sites,” but her progress compared to last session, when a similar bill couldn’t even get out its first committee, showed there is a path forward.

“We got a huge amount of momentum,” Eggman said.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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