San Francisco district attorney looks for new approach to homeless, mental health issues

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin hosted a public summit Wednesday to address the behavioral health issues on the streets and how those issues impact public safety.

The summit was held in San Francisco's Mission District at Manny's Restaurant and Bar and also streamed on the DA's Facebook page.

California State Senator Sydney Kamlager of Los Angeles gave the keynote address through Zoom. She said society needs to reexamine how it views different segments of the population.

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San Francisco Mayor London Breed acknowledged that when it comes to the homeless population in the city there are a lot of mental health challenges, a lot of drug addiction and other issues that are impacting San Francisco residents.



"We have lowered expectations of folks once they have been arrested. We have a parochial understanding of people with disabilities, a stigmatized approach to people with behavioral challenges. We use the penal code to over-punish," she said.

District Attorney Chesa Boudin told the crowd the issues of homelessness, substance abuse and behavioral health are not unique to San Francisco but are playing out in many California cities.

"If we don't solve this problem and don't find ways to move forward with concrete achievements when it comes to reducing the visible challenges of behavioral health on our streets, no matter what crime statistics show us, far too many will not be or feel safe in our community," Boudin said in his opening remarks.

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The event featured two panel discussions: Locked Up and Locked Out: The Intersection of Behavioral Health and the Criminal Legal System in San Francisco and Care Not Cages: Towards a Public Health Response to Behavioral Health Issues.

State Sen. Kamlager said she hopes recommendations and ideas come out of the summit that can be shared in Southern California too, saying there is so much work to do.

Go here to watch the full discussion.

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