May HANC Meeting Recap: Healthcare at a Crossroads

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By James Sword, HANC Board

     Affordable Health Care in the United States is behind other industrialized nations. More than twenty nations in the world have universal healthcare, including Serbia, Ukraine, and Croatia.  The United States is not one of them.  May's Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council meeting highlighted healthcare shortcomings nationwide and efforts at the local and state levels to improve the situation.


     A panel of Don Bechler, Chair of Single Payer Now; Shira Noel, Policy and Advocacy Coordinator Homeless Youth Alliance (HYA); and Dr. Scott Steiger, Associate Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry at UCSF, discussed their efforts on this issue. Mr. Bechler discussed his efforts since the 1990s to establish single payer healthcare. Single Payer Now has determined that protecting the ACA from the current administration is not the proper action, but rather the moment should be seized to push for an improvement: universal healthcare.


     As with many other issues, as goes California, the nation follows. There is a bill, SB 562, that would create single payer healthcare.  The bill passed in the California Senate by a 23-14 vote on June 1, and advanced to the Assembly.



     Ms. Noel and Dr. Steiger transitioned the conversation to a local level. Dr. Steiger highlighted how and why safe injection sites are a resource that should be brought to San Francisco. Safe injection sites have been safely managed for decades throughout the world. The concept is simple and the evidence supports that creating a safe location for people to conduct intravenous drug use not only reduces overdose deaths, but also increases the number of users seeking help.


     Ms. Noel, a member of the HANC Board, highlighted HYA’s efforts in the neighborhood. In 2016, HYA 1) received 97% of the needles they handed out through a clean needle exchange; 2) served more than 500 youth; 3) referred more than 750 people to methadone and other healthcare services; and 4) provided 150 new doses, and 110 refills, of Norcan. HYA’s effort not only limits the spread of disease, but also saves lives. HANC's members voted to add HANC's endorsement to a letter of support for the creation of safe injection sites.


     There is a fear-mongering effort by a vocal NIMBY minority to prevent safe injection sites in our, and surrounding, neighborhoods. It is time for us to stop believing the falsehood that services attract users and addicts to the neighborhood. Let’s change the rhetoric of “if you build it, they will come;” to “they are here, let’s help them recover.” HANC will send out the letter of support to our membership.


For more info on Single Payer Now:


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