San Francisco mayor declares state of emergency in Tenderloin over overdose crisis

The overdose crisis in San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood has led the city's mayor to declare a state of emergency.

Mayor London Breed said the emergency declaration would allow the city to bypass certain laws to quickly address the crisis of people dying of drug overdoses on the street in the neighborhood.

"That's what this emergency declaration is about, addressing those challenges, understanding what people are suffering through and meeting them where they are," Breed said.

She said the most important job she has as mayor is to ensure that people feel safe walking on the streets of San Francisco.

"They shouldn't have to look over their shoulders," she said. "They shouldn't be punched in the face randomly. They shouldn't have to see someone sticking a needle in various parts of their bodies, laying out in the streets and wondering what can I do to help them."

"We are losing over two people a day to drug overdoses, mostly to fentanyl, and mostly in the Tenderloin and SoMa. This is a public health emergency demanding a crisis level response, with massive urgency, coordination, and determination to confront this epidemic," said Supervisor Matt Haney.

City leaders said the overdose crisis in the Tenderloin exploded during COVID. Dealers and users come from around the region to the neighborhood to peddle and buy the powerful drug.

A recent report from the San Francisco Medical Examiner's Office shows that for the month of November there were 55 accidental drug overdose deaths. Most of those occurred in the Tenderloin and SoMa neighborhoods. Since January of this year, 592 people have died of accidental overdoses.

While that figure is lower than last year's count of 711, what is apparent is that the city's ongoing crisis calls for an emergency response.

The city is hoping its three-part Tenderloin Emergency Intervention plan will create a healthier and safer neighborhood.

The first phase, which has been underway, includes neighborhood assessments, community stakeholder engagement, targeted enforcement interventions, and infrastructure improvements.

The second phase, which began earlier this week and will continue through the beginning of 2022, focuses on direct intervention for the most destructive problems facing the Tenderloin. The emergency declaration will allow operations during this phase to be more quickly implemented, including prioritization of connections to existing social and health services, more coordinated enforcement and disruption of illegal activities, and streamlined infrastructure response and improvements.

The final phase focuses on transitioning to sustained operations, which will help keep streets safe and accessible for residents.