San Francisco supervisors say they are close to reaching a deal with Mayor London Breed over dueling ballot measures concerning mental healthcare for the March 2020 election.

City supervisors held a hearing Wednesday at the board’s Rules Committee, as required, for the Mental Health SF ballot measure that will appear on the March 2020 ballot. Supervisors Hillary Ronen and Matt Haney are sponsors of the measure.

Even before the hearing began, supporters of the measure held a rally at the steps of City Hall and then marched inside. Citations were given to two people for not following building rules and resisting arrest, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

During the hearing, Ronen said Mental Health SF was about The City providing “universal” metal healthcare for everyone:

“This means that The City will be providing that care to everyone who is homeless, who is uninsured, who is on Healthy San Francisco, or is enrolled in Medi-cal and has a serious or severe mental illness.”

Mental Health SF was introduced back in May, but the mayor has not been on board with the measure. Talks have been ongoing with Ronen and Haney with the mayor’s staff not to place the measure on the ballot, but to instead pass the reform measures legislatively at the Board of Supervisors.

Talks between the mayor’s staff and supervisors broke off last month, with Breed introducing her own ballot measure called Urgent Care SF. Breed’s measure focuses on providing care for 4,000 people homeless people suffering from both a mental health illness and substance abuse disorder.

Since the introduction of Breed’s measure, Ronen said talks have begun again and told a crowd of supporters who attended the hearing that:

“They are going well.”

The Mayor’s Office also says that negotiations with the supervisors are going well and have been productive.

Ronen said the Mental Health SF measure would create a 24/7 mental healthcare center to provide services, such as triage, psychiatric assessment, case management, treatment, and pharmacy services.

Additionally, there would be an office to help coordinate care for patients, a street crisis outreach team, and an office to advocate for people with insurance who may not get the mental services covered under their insurance policy.

Ronen said:

“That is why this is a truly universal mental care program.”

Haney said:

“This a huge step we can take to ensure people have access to mental health treatment.”

Breed’s measure also calls for similar reforms, including a new system of coordinated care, but again, focuses only on the 4,000 individuals identified by The City who are homeless and have both a mental illness and substance abuse disorder.

Veronica Forbes, who was formerly homeless and sought mental health treatment, is now a social worker and helps others getting treatment.

During public comment, Forbes said her clients can wait anywhere from one to three months in jail, on the streets, or in a shelter, waiting for mental health services:

“When someone weeks help and is put on a waitlist, there is a very narrow window of time to make a difference.”

The last day to pull ballot measures off the March 2020 ballot is Nov. 27.

Ronen said the one thing she wants is assurances from the mayor that, if they do reach an agreement, it gets carried out by the mayor before pulling the measure off the ballot:

“We need to feel safe that if we take it off the ballot that it will really be implemented, and faster.”

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay. A San Francisco native, he has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Send tips to jerold@sfbay.ca or at Twitter @Jerold_Chinn.

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