Here's a look at SF 'Wellness Hubs' plan, which could include safe consumption sites

Tara Campbell Image
Monday, May 29, 2023
SF mayor's 'Wellness Hubs' plan could include safe injection sites
Mayor London Breed talked about getting tougher on drug dealers and users, while quietly making way for privately-funded safe injection sites.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- In the ongoing battle against the drug overdose crisis, San Francisco Mayor London Breed publicly promised this week to get tougher on drug dealers and users, while more quietly making way for privately-funded safe injection sites.

"So at the end of the day, some people are going to like it and some people aren't. And that's just what it is, because I'm putting everything on the line to change what we need to do," said Breed.

She addressed the crowd gathered at U.N. Plaza on Tuesday, where Board President Aaron Peskin pushed the weekly meeting, highlighting the urgency of the crisis in the hub of the city's open-air drug market.

The mayor pushed back in days following, calling the move a political ploy as the debate over how to address the fentanyl crisis flares up.

MORE: SF mayor's Q&A on drug crisis from UN Plaza cut short after pushback from public

Mayor London Breed's outdoor question-and-answer session with county supervisors about the city's drug crisis at UN Plaza ended abruptly.

On Friday, the mayor released a preview of her upcoming budget, including a more subtle message showing room to fund what she dubs wellness hubs, noting any inclusion of safe injection sites inside the hubs would have to be privately funded.

"We're looking at receiving funds from the city for all the wraparound services, all of those services that are legal, that are being done right now," Lydia Bransent, executive director of The Gubbio Project, one of the nonprofits pushing for safe injection sites.

"Where the city's not going to help us with funding is with the actual overdose prevention site. That work will be privately funded," she said.

Overdose prevention sites, also known as safe injection or safe consumption sites, are illegal under federal law, but the mayor believes the New York model could provide a path forward - using private donations to operate the specific space within the "wellness hubs where drugs are consumed - not city dollars, making the city in theory, less liable.

MORE: Are safe consumption sites part of the solution to SF's drug overdose crisis?

Here's what San Francisco needs in order to operate safe consumption sites, which supervisors say are crucial in overcoming the drug overdose crisis.

Sam Rivera, executive director of OnPointNYC, the nonprofit operating the first two safe injection sites in the country in New York City - the first in the country -- was in San Francisco this week prepping nonprofits like The Gubbio Project, noting the city's showing of support is critical.

"Working with the city health department, a funder who not only sees their role as providing the funds that make it happen, but participating in a process where they can be creative and support other services that they know are key to allow any OPC to be successful," said Rivera.

"Working with the city to be able to really connect people to that next step, housing, treatment, whatever it is the person needs to stabilize and to be able to live a healthier, safer life," said Bransten.

Rivera also spoke at a fundraiser Wednesday night, helping The Gubbio Project raise those much-needed private funds.

VIDEO: 'Injecting Hope' | Watch documentary on innovative program tackling drug overdose, fentanyl epidemic

ABC7's Injecting Hope looks at an innovative program in Canada that is saving lives by giving users a safe place to get high.

Tara Campbell: "How much will it take to fund the actual space people consume drugs?"

Lydia Bransten: "Annually to fund that, including having a medical professional, an EMT and all that it's going to be about $1.2 million."

Bransten estimates the city's portion of the "Wellness Hubs" will cost roughly $3.5 million a year, with the mayor planning to open as many as three in the next two years

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