SF now sending people to 'drug court' on 2nd drug arrest. Will it help get users into treatment?

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Monday, July 3, 2023
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SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A new strategy change goes into effect Monday to try to control illegal drug use in San Francisco.

Now anyone arrested for drug use or possession for a second time will be sent to a specialized court where they can be offered treatment, mental health programs, and job training.

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With a goal is to get drug users off the streets and into treatment, San Francisco police made 71 arrests in the past month as part of Mayor London Breed's crackdown on the open-air drug market.

Lydia Bransten, the executive director of the Gubbio Project, is skeptical of the plan's effectiveness.

"Arresting our way out this has never worked in the past and it isn't going to work now," Bransten said.

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The Gubbio Project is one of the nonprofits helping people on the streets, including drug users.

Yet, starting Monday, the city's getting tougher on people arrested for drug use or possession. Those cited twice will now face what's dubbed "drug court" -- where they forgo jail time in exchange for treatment.

District Attorney Brooke Jenkins Brooke Jenkins previously said that the city would force people into 'drug court' after five arrests, and then dropped that number to three in December, and now two.

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"Enforcement as a mechanism to get people into treatment is a new for us and will take time to catch on, but we are committed to doing our part to help address the crisis we are seeing on our streets," Jenkins said in a statement.

But Bransten fears this type of enforcement could make the crisis even worse.

"I mean, it's going to drive people underground," Bransten said. "I mean, I expect what will happen is that more people will die of overdose because they're going to be less visible."

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