The San Francisco mayor and supervisors announced Tuesday they will move forward with Mental Health SF, with some tweaks, which will reform The City’s mental health care system.

The plan is a compromise months in the making between Mayor London Breed and supervisors Hillary Ronen and Matt Haney. Both the mayor and supervisors had introduced dueling ballot measures that would have been presented to voters in the March 2020 election.

Both sides will withdraw their measures as a result of the legislative compromise.

Breed said at the press conference outside City Hall:

“Even though we have had two competing measures, we have come together to do what is in the best interest of this city, to introduce today at the Board of Supervisors a compromise that is going to help us address the most significant problem in our city.”

Jerold Chinn/SFBay Mayor London Breeed, center, with city officials, announce a compromise with Hillary Ronen, left, over mental health care at a press conference in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, November 12, 2019.

Breed’s measure, Urgent Care SF, focused on providing services incrementally to the 4,000 homeless people diagnosed with a mental health illness or substance abuse disorder. With the original Mental Health SF, Ronen and Haney aimed to provide universal care to people without private insurance who suffer from severe mental health illness.

The three reached an agreement to prioritize care to The City’s homeless population with serious mental illness or substance abuse issues.

The Mental Health Center will operate inside the Behavioral Health Access Center and will offer 24-hour drop-in services for anyone seeking access to immediate care. Work to rehabilitate and prepare the existing Behavioral Health Access Center will begin as soon as funding is identified.

Ronen said:

“If you are homeless, uninsured or on Medi-Cal and have a severe mental illness, Mental Health SF will treat you, create a plan and a path towards a stable and healthy life and guide you to stay on that path.”

Mental Health SF will create an Office of Private Insurance Accountability where advocates will work with insurance companies on behalf of insured residents who may not be getting the full benefit of their coverage.

Additionally, The City will establish a hotline the public can call in lieu of police if they see someone in crisis on the streets. Professional mental health clinicians will respond and assess the person.

Jerold Chinn/SFBay Supervisor Hillary Ronen, center, with city officials, announce a compromise with Mayor London Breed over mental health care at a press conference in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, November 12, 2019.

Ronen said:

“Once Mental Health SF is fully up and running, no one in San Francisco has to stand alone when they are battling diseases of the mind.”

Haney said many people are currently on the streets suffering in silence and not receiving care they need.

He said:

“If you are sick, if you need somebody to talk to, if you are dual diagnosed, you need to have a system that actually takes care of you, that coordinates your care and doesn’t turn you away.”

Breed and the Board of Supervisors are looking at various way to secure the approximate $100 million needed annually to fully implement the new program. Under consideration is restructuring of The City’s business tax and a public health bond measure that would be placed on the November 2020 ballot.

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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