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California Lawmaker Calls For Supervised Use Of Heroin To Curb Overdoses

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For a California lawmaker, cutting down on drug overdoses entails allowing addicts in the state to use heroin, cocaine, and other recreational drugs at a supervised facility — joining the roster of other U.S. cities considering the establishment of legal drug injection sites.

Democratic assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman proposed allowing the use of controlled substances in healthcare centers that can provide the necessary medical intervention.

"Addiction is a health care issue, and I think it's high time we started treating it as a public health issue, versus a criminal issue," says Eggman in an Associated Press report, highlighting the bill as a step toward addressing the heroin addiction and overdose epidemic plaguing the country.

For its supporters, the facilities - proposed Tuesday as cities like San Francisco and New York City weighed passing similar ordinances - would reduce deaths as well as HIV and hepatitis C transmissions.

The proposal cites the success of a similar British Columbia, Canada site built in 2003, which has so far administered over 2 million injections and currently costs $2 million every year. Canadian Sen. Larry Campbell, who helped put up the facility as Vancouver mayor, joined Eggman in Sacramento as a show of support.

The program, said to result in $1.5 million in costs primarily due to reduced emergency room visits, treats and keeps the addict alive and "off the streets," says Campbell.

Amid lawmakers' seeming reluctance to support the bill via a postponed committee vote, law enforcers met the initiative with opposition and maintained that it will worsen the addiction problem.

Asha Harris, spokeswoman for the State Sheriff's Association, believes it will send "entirely the wrong message regarding drug use" and lead to civil liability issues for involved authorities.

For county supervisor Andrew Do, the approach is equivalent to coddling criminals.

"Drug addicts won't get the treatment they need to straighten out their lives if they can shoot up at their neighborhood heroin hangout without fear of punishment," he warns, dubbing the proposed state-sanctioned drug gens a danger to Orange County's safety.

In Orange County alone, drug overdose death rates have soared, rising 61 percent from 2000 to 2012 based on health Care Agency statistics. Almost 400 died from overdoses in 2015 alone, according to data from the coroner.

It remains unclear how the bill, which Eggman says she has not discussed with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, will fare. But in case it passes into law, it will be the first U.S. safe injection site, nearly 100 of which already exists in 66 cities around the world. In Europe, such centers have already been operating for over three decades.

For Denise Cullen, whose son overdosed on Xanax and morphine back in 2008, injection facilities already exist in the country: in the bathrooms of fast food chains and gas stations.

"It's not clean and safe, If they overdose, there's no one to help them," she explains. "If there was a safe injection facility here, I'd be driving [my son] to it."

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