San Francisco is handing out approximately 400,000 syringes to drug addicts every month, and is on pace to hand out 6 million syringes within a two-year span – enough to provide every man, woman and child in the city with seven syringes.
The total is higher than the number of needles handed out in New York City, which has 10 times the population, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
The San Francisco Department of Public Health hands out taxpayer-funded syringes to drug addicts in an effort to reduce HIV transmissions and other health risks. A recent story by NBC Bay Area reported that many of these needles end up on sidewalks outside schools and residential neighborhoods, costing the city millions of dollars annually in cleanup costs.
In response to the increase in syringes, health department spokesperson Rachael Kagan said, “It may be that we are doing a better job of providing clean needles for our drug users.”
San Francisco Mayor Mark Farrell said he has no intention of ending the program, and instead wants to spend additional city revenue to tackle the “unintended consequences” of the program.
The mayor’s proposal includes giving $750,000 to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation so it can hire workers to pick up used syringes.
“There is a problem on our streets with syringes, and that is exactly why I chose to create a dedicated team of 10 people to pick them up,” Farrell said.
The mayor wants to spend $6 million to fund a special “first-of-its-kind medical team to treat addicts on the street with the medication buprenorphine,” a drug intended to make addicts not want to shoot up in the first place.
When cleaning up a homeless encampment, the mayor and other city workers recently removed more than two tons of debris and approximately 100 syringes and crack pipes. (Source: San Francisco Chronicle, May 29.)