Health Highlights: Feb. 8, 2018

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

San Francisco to Open First ‘Safe Injection Sites’ in U.S.

San Francisco plans to open two legal safe injection sites in July, and they could be the first such facilities in United States.

A task force’s recommendation to open the sites was unanimously endorsed by the San Francisco Department of Public Health, CNN reported.

At the sites, people can use drugs they bring with them and are supervised by staff who know how respond to overdoses or other medical emergencies. Staff also offer counseling and referrals to various health and social services.

Such sites are needed in light of the steep rise in opioid overdose deaths in the U.S., according to San Francisco Mayor Mark Farrell, CNN reported.

In 2016, there were more than 63,000 drug overdose deaths in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s more than the number of Americans who died in the Vietnam War.

Last year, there were more than 100 drug overdose deaths in San Francisco, which has about 22,000 intravenous drug users, according to the city’s Safe Injection Services Task Force, CNN reported.

Other U.S. cities, including Seattle and Baltimore, are looking at opening safe injection sites, and Philadelphia has said it will welcome private groups interested in establishing such sites.

There are more than 120 safe injection sites in Australia, Canada and Europe, according to Laura Thomas, the California state director for the nonprofit Drug Policy Alliance, CNN reported.

Along with reducing the risk of overdose deaths, the sites also prevent transmission of HIV and viral hepatitis, reduce the use of drugs on the street, and help people access drug treatment and other services, more than 100 peer-reviewed studies have found.


Nearly 12 Million Americans Enrolled for 2018 Obamacare Coverage

This year’s enrollment numbers for insurance under the Affordable Care Act are similar to last year, despite efforts by the Trump administration and the Republican-led Congress to undermine and repeal the program.

About 11.8 million Americans have signed up for coverage this year, about 3 percent less than last year, according to the Associated Press.

That number surprised some experts.

“If you had asked me a year ago whether enrollment for 2018 would be almost equal to 2017, I would have laughed at you,” Larry Levitt, who follows health law for the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, told the AP.

“So long as lots of people are still getting insurance it becomes much harder to take that away,” he added.

Republicans in Congress tried to repeal the program, and the Trump administration cut the sign-up period in half, gutted the ad budget, and eliminated a major subsidy to insurers, leading to an increase in premiums, the AP reported.

Despite the high enrollment figure this year, the program’s future is uncertain as the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress continue their attacks on it.