Officials Attribute Decrease in Overdoses in San Francisco to ‘Harm Reduction’ Training
The rate of fatal heroin overdoses in San Francisco has reached its lowest level in nearly 10 years, with public health officials attributing the decline in part to "harm reduction" training for people with substance abuse problems, the Los Angeles Times reports.
San Francisco in 2003 became the first city in the state to publicly fund the distribution of naloxone, a medication that can revive overdosing opiate users in a short period of time. The program costs about $50,000 annually. However, the "controversial" San Francisco program is not used statewide.
Critics oppose the program because it does not follow "Say No" or "Get Treatment Now" messages, the Times reports. Some physicians are concerned that publicly funding such programs constitute an endorsement of illicit drug use.
David Smith -- medical director of the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinics, one of San Francisco's largest drug treatment providers -- said, "Addiction is a disease, and overdoses are simply a symptom of the disease. We believe we should be focusing more on getting people into treatment."
However, Josh Bamberger, medical director of the San Francisco Department of Health's division of Housing and Urban Health, said, "One of the things people will tell you is that we should focus on trying to get addicts in treatment. You can't get a dead addict into treatment" (Costello, Los Angeles Times, 10/31).