What's happening in California?

UP NEXT:  AB186 has been filed as inactive and will be brought up again for a vote in 2018.

Background: On June 2nd, 2017, the California State Assembly became the first legislative body in the U.S. to pass a bill to permit safe consumption services that would allow people who use drugs to use controlled substances under the supervision of staff trained to treat and prevent drug overdose and link people to drug treatment, housing and other services. AB186 by Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) passed the CA state assembly with bipartisan support, 41-33. This historic bill sponsored by drug treatment providers, HIV and hepatitis prevention groups, the Drug Policy Alliance and others, puts California at the forefront of the national momentum towards opening supervised consumption services (SCS) in the U.S. The bill would allow local jurisdictions to choose to permit SCS and provide legal protections for the programs and participants. It creates a pilot program, allowing a limited number of jurisdictions to operate the services, and requires a report on the efficacy of the services. On July 5th, AB186 passed the Senate Public Health committee. On July 11th, AB186 passed the Senate Public Safety committee. However, on September 12th the bill was 2 votes short to pass the Senate Floor and was filed as inactive. 

What's Happening Locally?

Local meetings are posted in the 'News & Events' section on the top menu.

SAN FRANCISCO - In May 2017, Board of Supervisors President London Breed appointed a 15-member task force to assess if and how SCS could become a reality in the city. The task force will meet three times (June 15th, July 21st, and August 10th) as part of a series of public events to discuss SCS. The conversation about SCS is not new to San Francisco, with a successful community forum, the San Francisco Hepatitis C Task Force, and the San Francisco Human Rights Commission recommending the implementation of SCS in the city in 2007, 2010, and 2014 respectively. Recently, however, key stakeholders have expressed increased openness and support for SCS in the city including Mayor Ed Lee, and Barbara Garcia, Director of the Department of Public Health.[6] Meetings are open to the public. For the most up to date information, please follow YES to SCS California on social media and review the SFDPH website here. 

ALAMEDA COUNTY - Providers and advocates are in the early stages of organizing a local county-wide coalition. 

SCS Advocacy in the United States

Safer drug consumption services (SCS) are legally sanctioned spaces where people who use drugs are free to inject on the premises, using clean equipment, and under the supervision of trained staff. While no SCS are currently in operation in the U.S., interest in this harm reduction approach has piqued in response to striking rises in overdose deaths, abuse of prescription opioids, and harms arising from a failed war on drugs. Local and state advocacy efforts are expanding across the country, with state bills introduced in several states in 2017 – California, Maryland, Vermont, New York, and Massachusetts – and local advocacy in many major cities.

State Bills

Maryland: Introduced by Delegate Dan Morhaim, H.B. 519 would permit the establishment of SCS in Maryland. The bill, however, did not make it out of the House Health and Government Operations Committee in February.[3]

Vermont: Introduced by Representative Selene Colburn,  H 108 was referred to the House Committee on Human Services in March and awaits hearing.[4]

Massachusetts: Sponsored by Senator William Brownsberger, S 1081 was introduced in January and referred to the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery. [5]

Local Advocacy

Seattle/King County, WA: In January 2017, the King County Board of Health endorsed two SCS sites – one in Seattle and one in the surrounding county – set to open by the end of the year. This groundbreaking development built from recommendations put forward in September 2016 by the Seattle/King County Heroin and Prescription Opiate Task Force. Convened by Mayor Ed Murray and the King County Executive Dow Constantine, the Task Force outlined nine strategies, one of which was the establishment of at least two SCS, called “Community Health Engagement Locations” (CHELs).[7] Pushback, however, is being seen at the state level in Washington, with HB 1761 and SB 5223 pushing for a statewide referendum on the prohibition of SCS.[8]

New York City, NY: Housing the largest population of people who inject worldwide and responding to high rates of public injection and overdose deaths, a diverse and multi-sectorial coalition was formed in 2014 and has since launched a city-wide campaign – SIFNYCto advocate for the implementation of SCS. In January 2016, the city council voted unanimously to fund a $100,000 feasibility and implementation study via the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, including interviews, cost-benefit analysis, proposed models, and other considerations for implementation.

Ithaca, NY: Mayor Svante Myrick convened key health, law enforcement, and academic stakeholders in 2014 to formulate a report to guide Ithaca’s response to epidemic-level rates of overdose in the city - available online here. The report recommended consideration of SCS as a means to address issues of overdose, infectious and bacterial infections, public order, and access to health and social services.[9] In February 2016, Mayor Myrick became the first U.S. mayor to call for the opening of SCS, a view supported with those who work with people who use drugs as well as law enforcement.[10]

Baltimore, MD: In February 2017, the Abell Foundation and researchers at John Hopkins University released a comprehensive report Safe Drug Consumption Spaces: A Strategy for Baltimore City.[11] A recent study also found that implementation of one SCS in the city would result in an estimated $7.8 million in savings per year.[12]

Other cities involved in advocacy efforts include Denver CO, Portland OR, Albany NY, Boston MA, and Philadelphia PA.


[1] Eggman. S., Wiener, S., & Friedman, L. (2017). AB-186 Controlled substances: safer drug consumption program. California State Legislature – 2017-2018. See: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180AB186

[2] Drug Policy Alliance. “Groundbreaking supervised consumption services bill passes the California Assembly.” Drug Policy Alliance (June 2, 2017) http://www.drugpolicy.org/news/2017/06/groundbreaking-supervised-consumption-services-bill-passes-california-assembly

[3] Morhaim, D. et al. (2017). HB-519 Public Health – Overdose and Infectious Disease Prevention Safer Consumption Facility Program. Maryland State Legislature – 2017-2018. See: https://legiscan.com/MD/bill/ HB519/2017

[4] Colborn, S. & Rachelson, B. (2017). HB-108 An act relating to limiting drug-related criminal liability and civil forteiture actions against persons associated with an approved safer drug consumption program.Vermont State Legislature – 2017-2018. See: https://legiscan.com/VT/ bill/H0108/2017

[5] Brownsberger, W. (2017). An Act to authorize public health workers to pursue new measures to reduce harm and stigma for people affected by substance use disorder. Massachusetts State Legislature – 2017-2018. See: https://legiscan.com/MA/bill/S1081/2017

[6] Green, E. (2016). SF’s top health official endorses safe drug injection sites. San Francisco Chronicle (December 1, 2016). Retrieved from: http://www.sfchronicle.com/politics/ article/S-F-s-top-health-official-endorses-safe-drug-10660496.php

[7] Sherman, S., Hunter, K., & Rouhani, S. (2017). Safe Drug Consumption Spaces: Implications for Baltimore City. The Abell Foundation 29(7). Retrieved from: http://www.abell.org/sites/default/files/files/Safe%20Drug%20Consumption%20Spaces%20final.pdf; Heroin and Prescription Opiate Addiction Task Force. (2016). Heroin and Prescription Opiate Addiction Task Force: Final Report and Recommendations. Retrieved from: http://www.kingcounty.gov/~/media/depts/community-human-services/behavioral-health/documents/herointf/ final-heroin-opiate-addiction-task-_force-report.ashx?la=en

[8] Miloscia,M., O’Ban, S. & Becker, R. (2017). SB 5223 Concerning safe injection sites in Washington state. Washington State Legislature – 2017-2018. See: http://app.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?BillNumber=5223&Year=2017; Stokesbary, D. (2017). HB 1761 An Act relating to safe injection sites in Washington state. Washington State Legislature – 2017-2018. See: http://app.leg.wa.gov/ billsummary?BillNumber=1761&Chamber=House&Year=2017

[9] Wilkinson, G. & Fan, L. (2016). The Ithaca Plan: A Public health and safety approach to drugs and drug policy. City of Ithaca. Retrieved from: http://www.cityofithaca.org/ document center/view/4224

[10] Sherman, S., Hunter, K., & Rouhani, S. (2017). Safe Drug Consumption Spaces: Implications for Baltimore City. The Abell Foundation 29(7). Retrieved from: http://www.abell.org/sites/default/files/files/Safe%20Drug%20Consumption%20Spaces%20final.pdf.

[11] Sherman, S., Hunter, K., & Rouhani, S. (2017). Safe Drug Consumption Spaces: Implications for Baltimore City. The Abell Foundation 29(7). Retrieved from: http://www.abell.org/sites/default/files/files/Safe%20Drug%20Consumption%20Spaces%20final.pdf.

[12] Irwin, A., Jozaghi, E., Weir, B. W., Allen, S. T., Lindsay, A., & Sherman, S. G. (2017). Mitigating the heroin crisis in Baltimore, MD, USA: a cost-benefit analysis of a hypothetical supervised injection facility. Harm Reduction Journal14(1), 29.