Connect with us

City Government

Mayor London Breed Launches New Street Team To Stop Drug Overdoses

Mayor London N. Breed, the San Francisco Department of Public Health (DPH), and the San Francisco Fire Department launched on August 2 a new Street Overdose Response Team (SORT) that, along with other overdose prevention initiatives in the Fiscal Year 2021-2022 budget, aims to lower the record number of drug overdoses in the City.

Published

on

Pills on a spoon with a wooden bottom and white background; Photo courtesy Michael Longmire via Unsplash

Like many communities throughout the country, San Francisco has seen a rapid increase in drug overdoses in recent years due to the proliferation of the powerful, synthetic opioid fentanyl, which is 50 times stronger than heroin.

Among those most at risk are people experiencing homelessness, whose rate of overdose deaths has doubled in the past year and account for at least one-quarter of all overdose deaths in the City. Additionally, data shows that over 50% of people who die from a drug overdose had prior contact with Fire Department EMS personnel.

In response, the City is urgently rolling out new interventions. Chief among them is SORT, which will proactively identify, engage, and follow up with individuals who have survived an overdose in order to prevent another, possibly fatal one from occurring.

“We know that overdose deaths are preventable and every person who dies is someone’s son, daughter, friend, or neighbor. It is urgent that we save lives by doing what we know will work best,” said Breed.

“The Street Overdose Response Team is focused on helping people who are most at risk get the help they need to start their recovery. SORT is part of a package of new and expanded investments we are making this year to flatten the curve of the drug overdose epidemic and even lower the numbers of these tragic deaths.”

The City is investing $13.2 million this year in overdose prevention that in addition to SORT include:

  • Opening the SOMA RISE Center this fall to provide 20 temporary beds for people who are intoxicated to come in safely off the streets and be connected to care and services, including housing.
  • Expanded access to buprenorphine through telemedicine, increasing the hours at DPH’s Behavioral Health Pharmacy and delivery of buprenorphine to “high risk” housing sites and other locations.
  • Round-the-clock hours at the Market Street Clinic, an opioid treatment clinic at Civic Center that provides on-demand services for methadone, buprenorphine, and counseling and primary medical care.
  • Widespread distribution of naloxone to settings such as hospitals, primary care clinics, substance use treatment programs, housing sites, and public settings like food pantries and dining halls – anywhere substance users access services.
  • Expansion of the evidence-based efforts to incentivize people to continue addiction treatments.

In 2018, DPH’s Street Medicine team was the first in the nation to bring opioid treatment directly to people experiencing homelessness with substance use disorders. The Street Overdose Response Team (SORT) builds on San Francisco’s successful street outreach model of care, which also includes the Street Crisis Response Team.

Specifically, SORT is tasked with connecting with people in the moment they are being resuscitated, and as they come out of hospitals, clinics or other settings from drug overdoses, and offering them services that address substance use disorders.

These include the opioid use disorder medicine buprenorphine, which not only helps wean people off opioids but can also directly prevent overdoses; rescue kits that include the opioid-blocker naloxone; educational materials; and support getting into substance use treatment facilities, housing or shelter as a safe exit from the streets.

The team launched on August 2 with an initial crew consisting of a street medicine specialist from the Department of Public Health and a community paramedic from the Fire Department who will provide immediate care and support within 72 hours of an overdose.

Later this fall, SORT will ramp up to include ongoing and regular care and case management for individuals experiencing homelessness who have survived an overdose with additional capacities such as ongoing medication treatment, primary care and mental health services, and referrals to residential care and other treatment programs.

At full expansion, SORT will consist of specialists with a range of expertise who can meet a patient’s unique needs, including medical specialists such as doctors and nurses; behavioral health specialists including counselors and psychotherapists, and peer counselors with related, lived experience.

“People who survive an overdose are at heightened risk for a subsequent overdose, including a fatal overdose,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, Director of Health. “With the Street Overdose Response Team, we can take a targeted and coordinated approach to reach people who need help the most and provide tailored information and care to save lives.”

SORT will respond citywide to overdose calls, initially 12 hours a day, and by early 2022 when fully deployed, will operate 24/7. Patients are identified by hospitals, the 911 system (such as dispatch, and fire or ambulance crews), through referrals from community partners, and other sources. The teams will make sure no one is lost follow up, and in collaboration with other street outreach teams and a network of providers, can find and maintain contact with patients over time. The team anticipates building its case list to approximately 700 individuals within the first year of operations.

“Every day our paramedics, EMTs, and fire fighters respond to dozens of overdose incidents, some of which end in tragedy despite our best efforts,” said San Francisco Fire Chief Jeanine Nicholson. “Because of this, the Fire Department is uniquely situated to lead the initial identification, engagement and outreach to individuals suffering from opioid use disorder. The Street Overdose Response Team builds on the City’s expanding efforts to actively engage our most vulnerable populations. Our Community Paramedics are impactful, street-level providers who will bring coordinated care directly to those in need.”

Previously, people experiencing homelessness with substance use disorders did not receive a proactive approach and depended on their actively seeking out care from the City’s behavioral health system. SORT is part of the approach directed by the Mental Health SF legislation, which passed in 2019, to guarantee mental health care to all San Franciscans who lack insurance and prioritize people who are experiencing homelessness.

The legislation provides services and coordinated support to people experiencing homelessness who have mental health and substance use disorders.

     The San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Communication is the source of this report.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Activism

Why Sarah Syed Is My Choice for AC Transit Board of Directors, Ward 3.

As the AC Transit board president, a challenge I am confronted with is that traditional transit planning practice has ignored the pervasive issues of segregation, displacement, and exclusion from opportunity. Although the impacts of redlining can be felt in almost every aspect of life: from access to high quality education, to job opportunities and even healthy food options, our region doesn’t invest in transit service to repair past harms.  

Published

on

Elsa Ortiz is the AC Transit board president and the retiring Ward 3 director, which includes Oakland, San Leandro, and Alameda.
Elsa Ortiz is the AC Transit board president and the retiring Ward 3 director, which includes Oakland, San Leandro, and Alameda.

By Elsa Ortiz, President of AC Transit Board

The challenge of inequitable transportation access is felt by tens of thousands of residents in inner East Oakland and communities of color across the Bay Area.

These challenges are compounded by the legacy of redlining, which systematically denied Black and Brown residents access to homeownership and lending programs. Ultimately, the American dream of homeownership, investment in communities and building generational wealth was blocked.

As the AC Transit board president, a challenge I am confronted with is that traditional transit planning practice has ignored the pervasive issues of segregation, displacement, and exclusion from opportunity. Although the impacts of redlining can be felt in almost every aspect of life: from access to high quality education, to job opportunities and even healthy food options, our region doesn’t invest in transit service to repair past harms.

Last week, aboard an AC Transit bus, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg toured Oakland as part of his new effort to repair the damage done by large federal transportation projects, like freeways, which divided neighborhoods where people of color were the majority of the population.

Residents of underserved communities are the experts in understanding what they need. Unfortunately, the number of local political leaders who are ready to invest in transportation equity are few and far in between. Therefore, we have important ballot choices on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Sarah Syed, a candidate for AC Transit Board Ward 3, is the leader our region needs to turbocharge equitable cities. As a mixed-race woman, Sarah understands that access to transit is a question of equity. Through her work with the Bay Area Rapid Transit, the Valley Transportation Authority, and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, as a transportation planner and engineer of 20 years, Syed worked to help underserved communities.

In Los Angeles, where 88% of riders are people of color, Sarah took on a heavily bureaucratic system and planned enhancements to the routes disadvantaged riders were already using, including improving service frequency to every 10 minutes on two lines, new bus shelters at nearly 400 locations, and improvements along six different streets to extend the sidewalk and improve street safety and accessibility to bring better bus service.

Through her work with UC-Berkeley’s Othering and Belonging Institute, Syed is helping community-based organizations and local government agencies in eight communities across the state of California so that local equity leadership can drive the agenda of transportation planning to meet the priority concerns of underserved residents

As your next AC Transit Director for Ward 3, Syed will champion policy-based interventions to close equity gaps, equitable hiring and personnel practices.

She will work to build broad, ethnically inclusive coalitions to stand up for bus transit and communicate its value in ways that inspire members of the public and potential political allies.

When we improve bus service, we make our cities better places to live and help address some of America’s deepest problems.

Please join me, State Senator Nancy Skinner, Supervisor Nate Miley, the Alameda County Democratic Party, the three Mayors in Ward 3, and three BART Directors in supporting Sarah Syed for AC Transit Ward 3.

Elsa Ortiz is the AC Transit board president and the retiring Ward 3 director, which includes Oakland, San Leandro, and Alameda.

Continue Reading

Activism

We Will Not Incarcerate Our Way Out of This

Housing is a human right. We can use public resources to ensure everyone has a safe place to live and effective mental health and substance use treatment. Instead, we’ve gutted our social programs to the point where they don’t function and assume this lack of functionality means there’s no solution.

Published

on

As we’ve overfunded police and underfunded housing, treatment, and other essential services, we’ve seen more policing but less safety.
Last week, California Highway Patrol (CHP) and CalTrans violently evicted the Wood Street community, the largest encampment in the Bay Area.

People Are Liberating Public Spaces to Fight the Criminalization of Poverty

By Cat Brooks

How many times have you walked by an unhoused neighbor and told yourself it’s their fault, that they made the wrong life choices?

But the truth is that our unhoused crisis is the result of decades-long policies that criminalize poverty, addiction and mental health disabilities and treat human beings like garbage to be swept away with Friday’s trash while ignoring root causes.

Every city in the U.S. responds to visible poverty with fences, fines, cops, courts, and cages. These shortsighted responses make great photo ops, and let politicians pontificate, but all only accomplish terrorizing the most vulnerable, who move into new neighborhoods and reestablish their right to exist.

No matter how many arrests or evictions, the people will continue to be, and as part of that being — reclaim public spaces.

When San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen called for the erection of fences around the 24th Street Bart Plaza, the community struck back and retook the plaza. @MissionDeFence_SF posted a statement in solidarity with other current public land struggles, including: People’s Park in Berkeley, Parker Elementary in Oakland, Echo Park in Los Angeles and Mystic Garden in Daly City.

These struggles are proof positive that the power lies with the people who will rise up, resist and reclaim the people’s space.

Last week, California Highway Patrol (CHP) and CalTrans violently evicted the Wood Street community, the largest encampment in the Bay Area. CHP (the 4th most murderous law enforcement agency in California) descended on the camp for phase one of an armed eviction that will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Wood Street’s estimated 200-300 residents are being offered little relocation support or resources. Only a fraction has been given shelters or RV spots. Two were arrested for non-violent civil disobedience amidst an outpouring of community support.

Most of the Wood Street folks are Black, several are elders, many extremely vulnerable, and almost all are victims of gentrification and criminalization.

I was there to bear witness as the state demolished a tiny home, towed RVs, and destroyed lives. No effort was made to move their homes and belongings. Mayor Libby Schaaf doesn’t believe the city has any obligation to do so.

In an open letter to Schaaf, Governor Gavin Newsom, and others, residents offered concrete solutions and laid out their needs. They’ve been asking for sanitation services and fire safety for years. They’ve been ignored.

In their letter, they wrote, “The Wood Street community stands strong in our determination to keep our community together. We plan to continue organizing and fighting for long-term and permanent housing solutions.”

For now, they’ll be forced to move into residential areas where NIMBYS will call cops to protect their fragile senses from the brutality of visible poverty. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

This story is playing out across California.  Instead of meeting people’s basic needs, the state legislature does things like “CARE Courts” — to force unhoused people into court-ordered treatment that will cost millions and target Black and brown folks. The bill is Governor Newsom’s brainchild and a continuation of criminalizing the unhoused under the guise of “care” which he’s done since his days as mayor of San Francisco.

Housing is a human right. We can use public resources to ensure everyone has a safe place to live and effective mental health and substance use treatment. Instead, we’ve gutted our social programs to the point where they don’t function and assume this lack of functionality means there’s no solution.

Poverty is a political choice. Oakland’s unhoused population increased 24% since 2019 (thank you Libby), yet the Town spends 10 times as much on police as it does on housing.

As we’ve overfunded police and underfunded housing, treatment, and other essential services, we’ve seen more policing but less safety. We are less safe when we build walls to keep unhoused neighbors out of public spaces. We are less safe when we respond to mental health crises with a badge and gun.

We are less safe when the treatment plan for substance use problems is a cage.

If seeing unhoused people makes us uncomfortable, then we should invest in housing for all. If public drug use offends us, then we should invest in safe injection facilities (a proven public health intervention that Newsom just vetoed).

If watching someone experience a mental health crisis is distressing, then we should invest in community-driven approaches to support individuals in crisis.

Until we do these things, no matter how much our elected officials try to sanitize the crises we face, the people will keep knocking down fences to liberate public spaces.

Cat Brooks is co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project, executive director of the Justice Teams Network and host of Law & Disorder on KPFA, a new show that exposes the cracks in our system and agitates for resistance.

Continue Reading

Bay Area

COMMENATY: Integrity Matters. Honesty Matters at Oakland City Hall

This election is for the heart and soul of Oakland. Do we want to continue electing political insiders who are beholden to special interests, or are we going to empower the people and our shared values to create an Oakland for everyone?

Published

on

Treva Reid speaking at the Jewish Community Center Oakland Mayoral Candidate Forum on September 15. Photo courtesy of Treva Reid for Oakland Mayor campaign. 
Treva Reid speaking at the Jewish Community Center Oakland Mayoral Candidate Forum on September 15. Photo courtesy of Treva Reid for Oakland Mayor campaign. 

By Treva Reid

In my short tenure as a councilmember, I can tell you that integrity and honesty are missing at City Hall. As your next mayor, I will restore these basic yet powerful and core principles in the way our city is governed.

This election is for the heart and soul of Oakland. Do we want to continue electing political insiders who are beholden to special interests, or are we going to empower the people and our shared values to create an Oakland for everyone?

I am not a career politician, unlike some of my opponents. I say what I mean and vote for what I believe actual Oaklanders desire in our community. I have spent my first term in office listening to the residents of Oakland, bringing your ideas and values to City Hall, and I am committed to elevating this work as mayor.

As a councilmember, I have always been transparent with my constituents about the way I’ve voted — we may not agree on every issue, but you will know where I stand and why — without wavering. I have a proven track record of voting with the people and my conscience with wise, sound decisions. I am not a flip-flopper.

Last year, I was one of only two councilmembers who voted against the budget that did not deliver enough for Oaklanders on our public safety priorities. That budget stripped away and froze millions from the Police Department such as the Traffic Squad and Citywide 9-1-1 Surge Officers. They voted against a cost-neutral proposed budget amendment that I introduced to advance police academies to fill vacant officer positions, increase presence and reduce OPD response time to critical emergencies. It was not the people’s budget.

Unfortunately, the unprecedented rise in crime raged on unchecked, due to a host of factors, and with fewer resources to meet the increased emergency response or crisis response needed to support our city. The data, public safety updates, and our lived experience were clear. Soon thereafter, the Council adopted our proposal for additional police academies. Leaders must be held accountable to voters for their decisions that delay our critical response on issues that impact our communities.  It’s a disservice to the people.

I believe integrity and honesty are not things you learn–you either have them and practice them–or not.

We have less than 50 days before we elect our new mayor. Keep asking hard questions at candidate forums, look at our voting records, and hold us accountable for our actions. As mayor, I commit that I will govern with integrity and honesty, and that my decisions will be in the best interest of the City of Oakland. I will hold myself and my administration to the highest standards because Oakland deserves nothing less. I hope you will join me and restore integrity and honesty to City Hall. We deserve better.

Continue Reading

Subscribe to receive news and updates from the Oakland Post

* indicates required

CHECK OUT THE LATEST ISSUE OF THE OAKLAND POST

ADVERTISEMENT

WORK FROM HOME

Home-based business with potential monthly income of $10K+ per month. A proven training system and website provided to maximize business effectiveness. Perfect job to earn side and primary income. Contact Lynne for more details: Lynne4npusa@gmail.com 800-334-0540

Facebook

Trending