San Francisco, CA

Mental health milestone in San Francisco: 400 beds will be added to provide treatment

Josue Torres
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San Francisco is adding 400 mental health and addiction treatment beds, representing an 18% increase in capacity, as the city seeks to assist struggling residents, many of whom are homeless.

The additional beds and amenities are at different phases of construction. 

140 of the 400 total will be ready to open this year, while the other 260 are currently being planned and developed with no fixed opening date. There are approximately 2,200 treatment beds in the city.

The additional beds will supplement the work of the city’s new and growing street outreach teams, which comprise mental health and medical professionals to react to individuals experiencing psychiatric or drug crises.

The expansion, which is part of the city’s Mental Health SF reform efforts to rethink its behavioral health system, will most likely be insufficient to assist the city’s most vulnerable citizens. 

Over two years ago, the health department identified nearly 4,000 San Francisco citizens who were experiencing homelessness, mental illness, or addiction and promised to prioritize 230 of them for assistance.

As the strong opioid fentanyl gained hold and overdoses skyrocketed, the epidemic worsened the city’s drug problem. 

Mayor London Breed and the Board of Supervisors have been under increasing pressure to solve the continuing issue.

Breed said in a statement that this news represents a historic extension of the system of care and treatment for individuals with mental health and drug use problems.

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The news comes as the city pours money into homeless and mental health programs, utilizing a mix of federal and municipal funding, as well as money earned via Proposition C, a contentious 2018 business tax that is finally free to utilize after years of being mired in litigation. 

The new expansion will be financed with about $30 million from Proposition C. 

A further $6 million is coming from the city’s general budget and grant money.

According to Naveena Bobba, Deputy Director of Health, the expansion would enhance patient flow and ensure that people get prompt care.

She said the investments they are making in expanding the city’s residential care and treatment system will be crucial in assisting them in meeting their objective of providing fast access to recovery-oriented care and treatment.

The expansion effort is being driven in part by recommendations from a 2020 study, Mental Health SF initiatives, and statistics identifying the kinds of most needed therapy.

The 400-bed expansion includes the 20-bed SOMA Rise Center, which will open in the fall of 2021 and will provide a safe indoor space, or sobering center for people who have used any type of substances in order to monitor their health while intoxicated and connect them with other health and social services.

A 10-bed residential treatment center for young people with severe mental health or drug addiction problems is also being planned.

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Jennifer Esteen, a former psychiatric nurse for the San Francisco Department of Public Health and vice president of organizing for the Service Employees International Union said this news is huge, emphasizing they must have this inventory.

She said they need all of the things that are being offered and more.

The health service is also discussing the purchase of 73 more beds for individuals with mental health issues who need help with everyday tasks, including some for the elderly. 

The government intends to build an extra 140 new beds to assist individuals transitioning out of inpatient drug abuse treatment; the last stage before moving into independent living.

Following a year of planning, the city inaugurated the new Hummingbird Place respite facility in the Mission in February, with 30 additional beds.

Supervisor Matt Haney said in a press statement that these therapy beds are desperately needed since people who are mentally ill and addicted to substances need urgent access to therapy and care.

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