San Francisco supervisor demands crisis response to surge in drug overdose deaths

San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney demanded on Thursday an immediate crisis-level response to the surge in drug use and overdose deaths in the city. 

Community members joined Haney for a rally before he held an afternoon hearing with the Department of Public Health. 

Haney said people in San Francisco are dying of fentanyl, heroin and methamphetamine overdoses at the highest rate the city has ever seen. KTVU reported earlier this week that factors contributing to the meth epidemic are the drug's relatively low cost, which helps fuel the addiction. 

The District 6 supervisor, which includes the Tenderloin and SoMa— some of the more troubled districts, said the open use of drugs on city sidewalks is making it difficult for small businesses to operate and for people to go about their daily lives. 

"This is a public health and a public safety crisis if there ever was one," said Haney. "The open drug use and overdose deaths in our city are increasing at a terrifying rate. Each loss of life is unacceptable and devastating." 

Haney specifically called on the department to come up with a comprehensive emergency plan to address specific areas, including ways to increase access to Narcan and improve street level crisis response. The plan also calls for the establishment of emergency detox and drop-in facilities and the regular reporting of overdoses and overdose deaths. 

"We need intensive case management so that people don't fall through the cracks. We need a street response team so that we have trained clinicians and first responders to the drug crisis out on our streets every day," said Haney. 

Public health says it is working with partners to address the city's drug crisis. "I think it's really important that we have multiple strategies because we know that one mechanism does not work for everyone," said Eileen Loughran from San Francisco's Health Department.

Loughran said the creation of Mental Health SF will go a long way to getting the resources and  data needed to adequately address the issue. "That's something else that just has us really thinking how can we move forward having additional teams on the streets and how will this compliment what we're already doing," said Loughran.

Public health said it is committed to talking with those in crisis to get an idea of what works and what doesn't and working with organizations and non-profits already on the streets trying to save lives.