San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced on Wednesday plans to move forward with opening a new behavioral health site in the Tenderloin that could possibly be used to house The City’s first safe consumption site.
According to city officials, the properties would be used by the San Francisco Department of Public Health to provide services and offer programs for people living on the streets and dealing with mental health and substance use issues.
SFDPH is considering using the site as a “crisis diversion unit” with as many as 15 beds for people in crisis.
SFDPH is also considering opening a safe consumption site, where people will be allowed to safely consume in the presence of medical professionals equipped with the medication naloxone to prevent overdoses. The site would also aim to help connect people with services.
If accomplished, both the crisis diversion unit and safe consumption site would operate independently, city officials said.
Breed said in a statement:
We know that the need is great, and we must continue responding by seizing on opportunities when they are presented. Purchasing the properties at 822 Geary Street and 629 Hyde Street will allow us to address the mental health and overdose crisis we continue to see in our communities, get people the help that they so desperately need, and provide much-needed relief to the Tenderloin neighborhood.”
SFDPH Director Dr. Grant Colfax said:
Our system of care is seeing increased demand for mental health services, and we are eager to meet this need through low-barrier access to care. … Low-threshold crisis centers for both mental health and substance use disorders have proved successful here in San Francisco and throughout the country, and by increasing these services, we are alleviating street conditions, unnecessary use of other city services, and most importantly, providing a compassionate and evidence-based response to our neighbors in crisis.”
Both Breed and Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, have been longtime proponents of opening a safe consumption site in The City.
Last year, Wiener introduced Senate Bill 57, which would allow consumption sites to open via pilot program in San Francisco, Oakland, and Los Angeles. The bill is currently being considered and set to be heard in the state Assembly Health Committee sometime early next year, according to Wiener.
The bill is Wiener’s third legislation pushing for such sites.
Advocates for the sites have pointed to other sites already operating in places like Canada, Australia and Europe, citing reductions in overdose deaths and successes in getting people into treatment. Operating a safe consumption site, however, could hold legal ramifications since such sites are currently illegal under federal law.