Breed announces tool to track treatment bed availability

San Francisco’s Department of Public Health has unveiled a new online tool that aims to help homeless people seeking treatment for substance use or mental disorders, Mayor London Breed announced Tuesday.

The new real-time inventory tool will allow service providers and potential clients to track the availability of the city’s 350 short-term behavioral health treatments beds at any given time.

“When someone is experiencing homelessness, mental illness, and a substance use disorder, the last thing we should be doing is making it more complicated for them to get the care they need,” Breed said in a statement. “With this real-time data, we’ll be able to connect people more efficiently with available treatment beds, make better use of our existing resources, and identify opportunities for improvement in our existing system of care,” she said.

The inventory is part of Breed’s Heal Our City initiative, which seeks to reform behavioral health for the 4,000 suffering on city streets from mental illness and substance use disorders.

“We want to make the best possible use of the substance-use and mental health treatment resources that San Francisco already provides, and to make data-driven decisions about where we need to add services,” Director of Mental Health Reform Dr. Anton Nigusse Bland said.

The real-time bed inventory of voluntary, self-referral treatment beds will be launched on the department’s SF Health Network website starting in November, in two phases. The first phase will show the availability of substance use treatment beds, while the second phase will show the availability of short-term mental health beds.

Following the announcement of the new tool, city Supervisors Matt Haney and Hilary Ronen criticized the tool, calling its function “basic.”

“I think it shows the sorry state that our mental health system is in that the Mayor and Dr. Bland are proudly announcing that they are finally going to start doing a basic fundamental requirement of any health department, which is to count how many beds are sitting empty while people with severe mental illness go untreated,” Ronen said.

“It’s mind boggling that our Department of Public Health still doesn’t even know where its own beds are or who is in them,” Haney said. “This is a long overdue, though really minor, basic step towards a functional system. Our mental health system is already so fragmented that these small changes in a vacuum won’t fix it.”

Both Haney and Ronen are pushing a November ballot initiative — Mental Health SF — that would ask voters whether to introduce a new citywide mental health care system that would provide on-demand psychiatric care and medication to anyone who needs it.

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