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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.

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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.

City Government

California Black Caucus Weighs in on Elections for L.A. Sheriff, Sacramento D.A.

In the Sacramento County race, the CLBC threw its support behind former prosecutor Alana Mathews for district attorney. That election is scheduled for June 7, 2022.

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Los Angeles County Sheriff Patrol Car

The California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) recently endorsed two African American candidates, Alana Mathews and Cecil Rhambo, who are running in high-profile county races in Sacramento and Los Angeles counties next year.

In the Sacramento County race, the CLBC threw its support behind former prosecutor Alana Mathews for district attorney. That election is scheduled for June 7, 2022.

“The California Legislative Black Caucus proudly endorses Alana Mathews” said Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus. “We are excited about the potential opportunity for her to bring equity, fairness, inclusion and reform to the prosecutor’s seat.”

If Mathews wins, she would be the first Black person and the first Black woman elected D.A. in Sacramento County.

The CLBC’s endorsement was “welcome news” for Mathews, a graduate of the McGeorge School of Law (Sacramento) and Spelman College (Atlanta).

“I’m honored to receive the endorsements from the Black leaders in California. I admire the work that they all do,” Mathews told California Black Media (CBM) on September 18 as she headed to a campaign event. “This is a significant endorsement as we seek more on the local and state levels.”

In Los Angeles County, the CLBC announced its support for Cecil Rhambo, who is running for County Sheriff. That contest will also be held in June 2022.

Rhambo is currently Chief of Airport Police at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

Chief Cecil Rhambo

Citing Rhambo’s 33-year record as a “respected” public servant, broad law enforcement experience and active involvement in Los Angeles-area communities, the CLBC says it believes Rhambo can help reduce crime in South LA and Compton.

“I’ve known Cecil for many years and as chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee, I am confident he would be the Sheriff all of LA could be proud of,” said Bradford. “I know he is the right person to lead the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department during this state and national demand for police reform and accountability, and I trust his commitment to bringing desperately-needed transparency, equity, and integrity to the Department.”

Rhambo helped to develop the Community Oriented Policing Bureau, which focuses on suppressing violent crime, combatting homelessness, parking enforcement, quality of life programs, youth programs, and the mental health response teams that partnered with psych clinicians county-wide, according to the CLBC.

Rhambo has worked in a number of law enforcement assignments across LA County, including working as an undercover narcotics officer and a deputized federal agent.

He was a lieutenant at Internal Affairs following the Rodney King beating in March 1991. In that role, he helped to create a digital tracking system that could monitor reports of police officer misconduct and use of excessive force.

District attorney candidate Mathews plans to “roll out” more endorsements from other individuals and groups in the upcoming weeks, she told CBM.

Anne Marie Schubert, a former member of the Republican Party, is currently Sacramento’s D.A. Schubert already announced that she has her sights on the Attorney General’s seat in the 2022 election and that she would be running against Rob Bonta who Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed to that role in March.

Mathews spent eight years as a deputy district attorney in Sacramento County, working her way up from misdemeanor jury trials to prosecuting perpetrators of domestic violence, juvenile delinquency, general felony, and prison crime cases.

She currently works with the Prosecutors Alliance of California, a group of prosecutors committed to reforming California’s criminal justice system through smart, safe, modern solutions that advance public safety, human dignity, and community well-being.

Other races to watch involving challengers of color during the 2022 election cycle include contests for Alameda County district attorney and San Francisco sheriff. Civil rights attorney Pamela Price will run in an open field as current District Attorney Nancy O’Malley is stepping down. And a 25-year veteran of the San Francisco Police Department, officer JoAnn Walker, will vie for incumbent Sheriff Gregory Ahern’s seat.

On the campaign trail in Sacramento County, Mathews says she believes working with police is “central” to the D.A. office’s work “but there has been little to no accountability in that office when it comes to police misconduct.”

She wants to change that.

“If you violate the law, you should be held accountable. Without that it undermines trust in the system,” she said.

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Business

Mayor Breed, Supervisor Mar Launch Grant to Support Storefronts Impacted by Vandalism

Up to $2,000 in financial relief available to repair storefront vandalism at neighborhood businesses

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SF Storefront Vandalism Grant Program Banner/Photo Courtesy of City of San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development

Mayor London N. Breed and Supervisor Gordon Mar announced Wednesday the launch of the Storefront Vandalism Relief Grant program, which provides up to $2,000 in financial relief to restore and repair damages from vandalism at neighborhood storefronts. The program launches during a time when many small businesses are recovering from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Opening and operating a successful small business in San Francisco was becoming increasingly difficult, and the pandemic has made it that much harder,” said Breed. “It has never been more critical for us to provide support to our small businesses in every way that we can, which not only means making it easier to open and operate a small business, but also providing relief when they face challenges. With the launch of the Storefront Vandalism Relief Grant, we are letting our small business community know that we have their back and will fight to ensure that they can continue operating for years to come.”

The Storefront Vandalism Relief Grant provides financial relief to restore small businesses impacted by deliberate actions that result in the destruction or damages of storefronts. This program will offer either $1,000 or $2,000, depending on the total cost incurred to repair physical damages. The $1 million program is designed to serve more than 500 small businesses with gross revenue of less than $8 million that can provide proof of damages from vandalism incurred since July 1, 2020.

The fund will directly support small businesses with financial relief in the aftermath of a crime to restore the harm done. The fund will also allow small businesses to make improvements that enhance security and prevent crime. This includes replacement locks, a new security gate, fixing an alarm system, adding new lighting, replacing windows, etchings on windows, and many others. Improvements are available on a first-come-first-serve basis, based on fund availability.

The Storefront Vandalism Relief Grant is one tool in preventing crime and improving safety in neighborhood commercial corridors. The Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) also funds programs to help small businesses and neighborhood organizations improve safety through ambassadors and activations to increase foot traffic and community patrols. The fund is not meant to replace the loss of stolen goods and does not include damage to shared spaces.

“During the pandemic, we’ve seen a surge in burglaries and vandalism in every neighborhood targeting small businesses already struggling with unprecedented economic challenges. As we work to prevent these crimes and strengthen safety on our commercial corridors, we must also respond immediately to provide relief to mom-and-pop businesses with direct and tangible support as they recover from these incidents,” said Mar. 

“Following requests from businesses in the Sunset, I worked with Mayor Breed and the Office of Economic and Workforce Development to create the Storefront Vandalism Relief Grant and secured an initial $1 million funding allocation,” said Mar. “The fund will provide financial relief to small businesses in the aftermath of a crime to restore the harm done, including direct costs of property damage or getting a replacement lock or new security measures.”

To apply, eligible businesses are asked to provide receipts, photos of damages and furnish a report from the San Francisco Police Department or from 311 in the case of graffiti. Applications can be found by visiting oewd.org/VandalismRelief.

“On February 26 at 4:00 a.m., a burglar managed to break into my small business without activating the alarm. An hour later an opportunistic looter came into my store and stole additional merchandise. Small businesses are already hurting hard from the pandemic and these crimes are a gut punch to small businesses,” said Michael Hsu, owner of Footprint on Taraval.  

“Since hearing about the Storefront Vandalism Relief Grant, I’ve put in my application to get up to $2,000 to help provide some relief to my business. We need more programs like this to support small businesses in our neighborhood that are struggling from being victims of burglary and vandalism. I’m thankful for our city leaders for initiating this program. Together with the community and leaders, we will get through these tough times.”

“Since the pandemic, I have heard so many stories from small businesses that have been burglarized or vandalized. As a small business owner, myself, I feel and understand their pain and loss,” said Albert Chow, president of People of the Parkside Sunset, a Taraval merchants and residents association. “The Storefront Vandalism Relief Grant is a safety net that is critical to ensuring that our small business owners are able to recover.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, San Francisco has provided immediate and ongoing support for small businesses, including making available more than $52.8 million in grants and loans to support more than 3,000 small businesses, in addition to tens of millions of dollars in fee and tax deferrals, and assistance applying for state and federal funding. This includes legislation introduced and signed by Mayor Breed to waive $5 million in fees and taxes for entertainment and nightlife venues and small restaurants.

“As we reopen and rebuild, many of our small businesses continue to struggle to make ends meet. These challenges can feel almost insurmountable when small businesses also become victims of vandalism” said Kate Sofis, director of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development.  “San Francisco’s Storefront Vandalism Relief Grant will help alleviate the financial hardship caused by deliberate acts of damage to property. It is one of many tools the City has to support our business community and the vibrancy of our neighborhoods as we work together towards economic recovery.”

“The San Francisco Post’s coverage of local news in San Francisco County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.”

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Activism

East Oakland Community Clean-up

The office of Councilmember Treva Reid invites you to…

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Oakland Clean Up Flyer

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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