San Francisco City Supervisor Matt Haney has drawn up legislation that would require city departments and other agencies that receive city money, including all shelters, navigation centers and supportive housing buildings, to create and immediately implement overdose prevention policies. That legislation unanimously passed at Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee.
Haney's legislation comes in the midst of a big increase in overdose deaths. The city reports that 146 people died of overdoses in January and February of 2021 A total of 81 people died of drug overdoses during the first two months of 2020. In March and April, an additional 106 people died in our city of accidental overdoses. Haney said that with 252 deaths in just four months, 2021 is on track to being an even worse year for overdose deaths than 2020, which was the worst year on record with 712 overdose deaths.
“This new law saves lives and treats the opioid epidemic like the crisis that it is. Every single department and every single shelter, housing provider, and grantee has to be part of the solution to stop overdoses and save lives. For the first time city departments and their grantees, like supportive housing providers and shelters, would be required to create and implement overdose prevention policies. Shockingly, at many of these sites, there isn’t adequate training, access to Narcan, effective monitoring of people at risk of overdose, or access to treatment and harm reduction. This legislation will change that by requiring overdose prevention plans and policies at every site,” said Supervisor Haney.
Under Haney’s proposed law each departmental Overdose Prevention Policy must:
- Address how departmental programs and grantees will provide drug treatment and harm reduction programs and services;
- Describe where the department will post information about syringe access and disposal and the schedule of naloxone distribution services;
- Include an onsite overdose response policy that describes the steps the department or grantee will take in the event that an individual overdoses on property managed by the department or in the presence of department personnel;
- Ensure that staff who work with people who use drugs receive training in overdose prevention strategies; and
- Describe the process by which the department will ensure that grantees that manage property on behalf of the department and/or provide direct services to people who use drugs implement overdose prevention policies.
“The overdose crisis in our city is horrific and it is getting much worse. We need a response to this crisis that mirrors the scale and focus of the data-driven, coordinated approach we’ve seen to COVID-19. We can prevent overdoses and save lives, but what the city is doing right now, including with its many grantees and contracted sites, is not enough. Everyone needs to be doing more, with more urgency and scale. This new law will do just that,” said Supervisor Haney.
“In order for us to attack opioid addiction from all sides, our EMS teams and first responders must leverage naloxone and buprenorphine, along with behavioral therapies and medication-assisted treatment to prevent more overdoses. We must also continue to stay committed to the full implementation of Mental Health SF, which includes full implementation of the Street Crisis Response Team, funding the establishment of an Office of Coordinated Care, and increasing behavioral health bed capacity to reduce wait times to access treatment beds by expanding service hours at the Behavioral Health Access Center,” said Supervisor Haney.