SF supervisor calls to divert millions meant for wellness hubs to drug treatment programs in jail

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Saturday, August 5, 2023
SF supervisor calls to divert millions to jail drug treatment programs
San Francisco Supervisor Matt Dorsey is asking Mayor London Breed to divert $19 million meant for wellness hubs to treat drug users in jail.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A San Francisco supervisor is calling for millions of dollars set aside for a handful of resource centers be redirected into treatment for drug users in jail.

"I want to make sure we are making criminal justice interventions life-saving interventions," said Supervisor Matt Dorsey, referring to San Francisco's multi-agency effort to get drug dealers and users off the streets. "At a moment when we are expanding arrests for people using drugs on the street I think this is where we have a population that is in particularly acute need for interventions.

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The supervisor sent a letter to Mayor London Breed Thursday night urging her to redirect nearly $19 million set aside for wellness hubs into jail-based treatment programs.

In her latest budget the mayor outlined plans for three Wellness Hubs; the resource-type centers expected to include everything from a place to shower - to medical services and connections to treatment and other services, including privately-funded safe consumption sites.

"I am going to support supervised consumption sites when we can move forward with them legally. It remains to be seen when and how that is going to happen," said Dorsey.

"But nothing I've seen in the past six or eight months has given me cause for optimism that any of this is going to happen soon."

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And, until there can be a coordinated rollout of Wellness Hubs, the supervisor says the money will be better spent in jail- and San Francisco Sheriff Paul Myamoto agrees.

"Many years prior in my career we did deal with this. We did have treatment-on-demand in the jails. We did have medication-assisted treatment in the jails. We still have that going on now, but just on a smaller scale," said the sheriff, noting as more drug users are arrested more supports are needed.

"This money and the support that we see from the city, if it is directed to our current system, will absolutely help us with this influx and with this increase in the population."

Gary McCoy is with HealthRight360, one of the nonprofits hoping to open a Wellness Hub and he says investing more in the jails won't compel more people into treatment.

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"We're seeing zero people are accessing these programs through jail health services and why would we put more money into that and why would we narrow the options we have for helping people," said McCoy.

Meanwhile there is agreement there is no one answer to this complex crisis. "This is never going to be a problem that is solved by any single panacea," said Supervisor Dorsey. "But I do think at a moment when we're making arrests of people using drugs on the streets I want to make sure we have the best possible interventions in jail and that's what I'm advocating Mayor Breed to do."

The Mayor's Office said in a statement: "We're still reviewing the request and appreciate the Supervisor's engagement on this important issue."

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