San Francisco's Democratic Mayor, London Breed, introduced a proposal on Tuesday to mandate drug testing and subsequent treatment for welfare recipients. This move comes in response to escalating concerns surrounding the city's challenges with homelessness and the fentanyl epidemic. Concurrently, a fresh primary contender announced their bid for next year's election.
Unveiling the initiative alongside Supervisor Matt Dorsey, who is a former police department spokesperson and a recovered addict, Breed clarified that the program would necessitate those with substance use problems seeking county-funded financial assistance to participate in treatment and support services.
"San Francisco is a city of compassion, but also a city that demands accountability," Breed said in a statement. "We fund a wide range of services, and we want to help people get the care they need but under current state law, local government lack tools to compel people into treatment. This initiative aims to create more accountability and help get people to accept the treatment and services they need."
"I strongly support Mayor Breed’s initiative, which will better incentivize treatment and recovery for a population that’s at wildly disproportionate risk for drug addiction and overdose fatalities," Dorsey continued. "We’re facing an unprecedented loss of life in San Francisco, and we know coercive interventions can work.
Nevertheless, securing the approval of more progressive Democratic members of the City Council might be a challenge for the mayor. This plan diverges from the city's past stance of opposing forced treatment for those with mental illnesses. Amid heightened concerns over public safety due to visible drug trading, escalating homelessness, and surging crime rates, especially with elections looming, City Hall's declaration coincided with Daniel Lurie's announcement of his 2024 Democratic challenge against Breed. Lurie, an established nonprofit leader and successor to the Levi Strauss & Co. legacy, stated in his campaign video, "What we observe on San Francisco's streets isn't progressive." He elaborated, "Change is imperative. My mayoral candidacy aims to introduce a fresh, external leadership approach."
Lurie further commented, "Our city possesses immense resources. However, our streets remain perilous. We must eradicate the menace of open drug trading and focus on accommodating all income tiers, prioritizing middle-class households – San Francisco's backbone."
According to Breed's recent proposition, individuals suspected of substance misuse would be obligated to undergo substance-related screenings or join treatment programs sponsored by the San Francisco Human Services Agency (SFHSA) to qualify for the County Adult Assistance Programs (CAAP).
The mayor’s team detailed that these treatment schemes would span various interventions tailored to individual needs, including residential therapy, medical detoxification, medically-supported treatment, outpatient alternatives, and more. Refusal or failure to commit to these programs would render individuals ineligible for CAAP financial assistance.
Between 2018 and 2020, close to 20% of CAAP beneficiaries admitted to having substance issues during their initial SFHSA interactions. It's speculated by the mayor's office that substance use disorders are probably more prevalent among homeless CAAP recipients than the general CAAP beneficiary community.
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