Lost lives driving effort from San Francisco leaders to solve drug crisis

ByTim Johns KGO logo
Thursday, October 12, 2023
Lost lives driving effort from SF leaders to solve drug crisis
Dozens gathered at the Salvation Army in San Francisco to hold a vigil for those who have lost their lives to addiction.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A moment of prayer followed by the lighting of candles. On Wednesday, dozens gathered at the Salvation Army in San Francisco to hold a vigil for those who have lost their lives to addiction.

"I'm an alcoholic addict. Because when I drank, I needed that meth to lower it down so I could just keep going," said Willian Chimas.

Chimas was one of those in attendance.

Chimas recently graduated from one of the Salvation Army's sobriety programs after struggling with addiction for more than nine years.

He told ABC7 News he considers himself one of the lucky ones.

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According to official data, 647 people died of unintended drug overdoses in San Francisco in 2022. And city officials are worried that this year could be even worse.

"As a city, we have never seen a public health crisis like this since the AIDS crisis. And it's not that far away from where the AIDS crisis was," said Supervisor Matt Dorsey.

The epidemic has become a focal point for city leaders as they attempt to clean up San Francisco's image and stop the growing number of deaths.

Supervisor Dorsey, who has been open about his own addiction struggles, believes there has to be an element of force.

"There is a realization that tough love is the only love there is. And if you're just enabling this, you're not doing a favor for anyone who's struggling with addiction," he said.

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Michelle Leopold and her husband, who lost their 18-year-old son to fentanyl overdose, are helping train people to use naloxone, as well as giving it away.

That opinion was similar to the one shared by District Attorney Brooke Jenkins.

"I am most certainly not bringing back the war on drugs, but I am going to prosecute fentanyl dealers," she said.

As for Chimas, he says he wouldn't be here today if it weren't for the Salvation Army's program.

Now, he's encouraging everyone who is struggling to get the help they need.

"I've been in your guys' shoes. I know it's hard. It's tough because we are lost in our minds. And you just got to give yourself that chance to be somebody you want to be," said Chimas.

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