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Mayor Lee to unveil $10.1B budget with increased spending to address homelessness, opiate abuse

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When Mayor Ed Lee announces his budget proposal today before the Board of Supervisors, he is expected to emphasize an increase in spending to boost homeless services to help those struggling with mental health issues and drug addiction. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)
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Mayor Ed Lee will unveil a $10.1 billion city budget today in an address expected to emphasize greater investment in homeless services, including an expansion of hours for the Harm Reduction Center to help those struggling with opiate addiction and living on the streets.

While the two-year budget proposal, which includes a $10 billion budget in the second year as well, will boost services by $30 million each year around homeless services — such as for those struggling with mental health and drug addiction — it also is a slowdown in government growth by keeping the number of government positions basically flat at 30,906 jobs after a fast expansion during the past six years.

That means the $275 million The City currently spends on myriad homeless services, from supportive housing to Navigation Centers, across multiple city departments increases to approximately $305 million next fiscal year in the mayor’s budget proposal.

The proposal also socks away into special funds $60 million in anticipation of federal funding cuts under President Donald Trump, including the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

The mayor, whose approval ratings remain low, will emphasize services addressing homeless residents, including needle and encampment cleanups, during his budget speech at 10 a.m. today before the Board of Supervisors.

“The issues plaguing our streets are undeniable, though not unique to San Francisco,” the mayor is expected to tell the board in his speech, of which a copy was provided to the San Francisco Examiner on Wednesday. “The surge of opiate abuse and addiction on the streets and in homes across the country has introduced new challenges for communities in America.”

There are numerous measurements to illustrate the extent of the drug epidemic in San Francisco.

The Fire Department’s paramedics, for example, administered 910 doses of naloxone, an overdose reversal drug, during the past year, according to data obtained through a public records request.

“The budget I put forward today presents new investments to address the behavioral health issues and heartbreaking evidence of addiction we witness on our streets daily,” reads the mayor’s speech.

The mayor will specifically discuss adding $8 million during the next two years to expand hours of operation at the AIDS Foundation’s Harm Reduction Center and create a new 24/7 resource center at a yet-identified location for homeless residents and those addicted to drugs for people to come in, sit around, eat a sandwich, shower and access services.

The Harm Reduction Center, at 117 6th St., will receive $1.8 million during the next two years to expand hours by 36 percent, which will accommodate an additional 10,000 visits annually from the current 32,000. People can drop in at the site and receive services.

Meanwhile, the Department of Public Health has assembled a task force, under the direction of Board of Supervisors President London Breed, to examine opening up safe injection facilities. There is no specific funding for safe injection facilities in the mayor’s budget.

The budget will also add $5 million annually for up to 40 conservatorship beds, which are locked beds for the mentally ill who are deemed unfit to make decisions for themselves. The location of the beds remains unknown but they will be in The City and add to the existing 100.

The budget grows the number of shelter beds for homeless residents in both Navigation Centers and traditional shelters. Navigation Center beds will increase from the current fiscal year’s 167 costing $4.9 million to 416 costing $17.3 million under the proposal.

In his address today, the mayor will also announce that he has housed 5,700 formerly homeless residents in supportive housing units, which means tenants receive social services, and will add 172 additional supportive units to the total inventory. There has been a 38 percent increase in supportive housing units since the mayor took office in 2011 and there will be more than 7,000 supportive units by the end of this year.

The Trump administration has injected much financial uncertainty into the budget, but such impacts won’t likely be felt until the end of next fiscal year, at the earliest.

Repealing the Affordable Care Act, which Trump is seeking to do, puts in jeopardy health coverage for some 133,000 residents and puts at risk a portion of the $125 million received by The City in expanded Medicaid federal funding. About $50 million in the mayor’s budget proposal is put away to offset potential Medicaid funding cuts and $10 million in another fund to offset other possible state or federal cuts.

The nonprofits under contract with The City to provide services, including those for homeless residents, are in line to receive 2.5 percent cost-of-living increases in each of the next two years, which combined totals $39 million.

The budget also takes aim at reducing the jail population. The City has committed to not building a new jail but shuttering the existing one at the Hall of Justice, and funding is included for a District Attorney’s Office pilot program to allow people who are booked around the weekend to have filing charges decided on the weekend so they don’t spend more time in jail than necessary. There is also a two-year $5.9 million grant to offer low-level drug offenders services in lieu of arrest.

For the mayor, the budget speech comes at a moment of transition for his administration with the announcement last week that his chief of staff Steve Kawa will retire at the end of June.

The mayor is expected to vow today to not go quietly from his final years in office. “We still have so much left to accomplish together over the next 2.5 years,” Lee plans to tell the board. “And I have no intention of slowing down, in fact I intend on sprinting to the finish.”

The board will review and vote to approve the budget proposal in the coming weeks. The budget is a 5 percent increase, about $500 million, from the current budget of $9.6 billion.

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