San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney on Tuesday called for funding a new approach involving both prosecutors and health experts to address the uptick in fentanyl overdose deaths.
During the Board of Supervisors meeting, Haney introduced a supplemental budget package to fund the creation of both a fentanyl task force and a street and mobile-based crisis response team.
The task force would include prosecutors and investigators from the District Attorney’s Office, while the crisis response team would include San Francisco Department of Public Health staff members to offer onsite drug testing and overdose prevention programs at Residential Single Occupancy hotels.
Haney said the funding is urgently needed as the city thus far hasn’t been able to come up with successful overdose prevention strategies focused on fentanyl.
“San Francisco is losing about two people a day to drugs and the large majority are connected to fentanyl. Not only is this epidemic not getting better, it is only getting much worse. … We need a plan to stop the unimpeded flow of these deadly drugs into our city and we need to step up both our deployment of harm reduction and treatment.”
According to data from the city Medical Examiner’s Office, the number of overdose deaths in the city has tripled in within the last three years, with nearly 700 people suffering fatal overdoses in 2020.
Haney said his office is still working out the details of the proposal. Public Defender Mano Raju voiced opposition to Haney’s proposal, taking issue with a task force comprised of prosecutors.
Raju said in a statement:
“More policing and surveillance of our community is not a solution to the opioid crisis in our country and more drug prosecutions do not result in a reduction in drug supply and demand, an increase in drug prices, nor the prevention of drug use. The proposal to fund more prosecutions is an affront to the millions of families who have been torn apart by the ongoing war on drugs responsible for producing the largest carceral state in the world.”
“Based on SFPD’s historic and ongoing enforcement techniques, street level drug sales and the Black and brown working poor of this city will continue to be the focal point of these prosecutions. … We need housing, food, treatment and health care for all people to build a sustainable and better future for our communities.”
Raju called on the board to reject the proposal.
On Wednesday, Boudin defended the task force.
“As I have said since day one, I refuse to double down on the War on Drugs. I also refuse to sit by and watch as fatal overdoses skyrocket. This task force aims to use innovative, data-driven approaches to complement a public health approach to this crisis. I call on the public defender to support our efforts to save lives and to take meaningful steps towards solutions.”