What is the current and future outlook on tackling SF's drug crisis?

Tara Campbell Image
Wednesday, December 6, 2023
What is the current and future outlook on tackling SF's drug crisis?
With San Francisco on pace for its deadliest year in drug overdoses, residents asked city leaders at ABC7's Take Action discussion about solutions and progress. Here's what they said.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- ABC7's candid conversation with Mayor London Breed, Police Chief William Scott, and District Attorney Brooke Jenkins touched on solutions to everything plaguing San Francisco, including the drug overdose crisis.

"I mean, I have lost friends and relatives to drug overdoses in this city of San Francisco," Mayor Breed said.

On the streets of San Francisco, the fentanyl crisis is set to hit new heights as the city is on pace for its deadliest year yet that could see the loss of 800 lives.

Inside the ABC7 Take Action Town Hall Monday, roughly 200 people gathered to ask city leaders the tough questions.

VIDEO: Take Action SF: Mayor, city leaders answer questions about drug crisis

San Francisco's mayor, district attorney and police chief discussed the city's drug crisis and possible solutions during ABC7's Take Action San Francisco discussion.

Lyanne Melendez: "What can we do so that the situation doesn't get worse for the city, for these people? And how can we ensure that these numbers go down next year?"

Mayor London Breed: "Well, part of it we're already doing. We are not only making arrests for those who are dealing drugs on our streets. We're making arrests of people who are using drugs with the hopes of trying to get people into treatment."

The city is now more than six months into a multi-agency effort to shutter the open-air drug market, including California Highway Patrol, National Guard, the DEA, and FBI.

Tom Wolf is recovering from addiction to Fentanyl and wants to know how long the support will last.

"What can you tell us about our ability to sustain that operation to try and close down the organized drug dealing in San Francisco?" he asked in the town hall.

Police Chief William Scott said as long as it takes.

"We've had some very successful operations," Chief Scott said.

VIDEO: SF searches for answers as it faces deadliest year of drug overdose crisis

San Francisco is on pace for its deadliest year yet amid the drug overdose crisis.

They've already arrested hundreds of drug dealers.

"We're almost at 900, which is almost double where we were this time last year. And those cases are being prosecuted," Chief Scott said.

DA Jenkins says there is more that could be done to keep drug dealers off the streets, calling on the courts to take more action.

"We have filed over 300 motions to detain defendants and drug dealing cases," Jenkins said. "That means keep them in custody while their cases are open. And we have only had a little over 30 of those motions be granted. And so that means 300 drug dealers who are in a revolving door in our courthouse."

But some in the audience said the city is focusing too much on law enforcement.

"I'm a little concerned we don't have a balanced approach," Gary McCoy said.

McCoy is with HealthRight 360, one of the nonprofits on the ground helping people struggling with substance use disorder. He says there needs more efforts put into providing treatment and other services.

MORE: Feds launch 'All Hands on Deck' operation to crack down on SF drug dealers, fentanyl

"And that is 24/7 drop-in centers, that is wellness hubs, that is staffing. More importantly, it's staffing," McCoy said.

"I would have liked to have heard exactly how they're going to fill the shortages," Jacqui Berlinn, Co-Founder of Mothers Against Drug Addiction and Deaths. "How they're going hire more mental health professionals."

It's a question Tanya Tilghman asked directly. Her son Roman struggles with severe mental illness and substance use disorder.

Tanya Tilghman: "How will the city hire and find the professionals needed to fit the demand or fill the demand for mental health care?"

Mayor London Breed: "One of the things that we did, we opened a year or so ago a linkage center and in order to staff up the resources necessary. Part of that emergency declaration gave us the ability to hire a couple of hundred additional mental health and social workers to assist with this issue. We've added more people, we of course need to continue to add more."

Tilghman: "I would have liked to have heard a plan on how they plan to fill those shortages. I mean as of right now my son is currently waiting to be placed in a dual-diagnosis facility."

Meanwhile, those struggling with addiction will have to wait as the city continues searching for solutions.

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