Mayor London Breed on Tuesday introduced plans for a drug sobering center. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Mayor London Breed on Tuesday introduced plans for a drug sobering center. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Drug sobering center site announced in South of Market

San Francisco is back on track to open its first ever drug sobering center for users of methamphetamine and other substances after the pandemic halted a previous plan to have one opened a year ago.

Mayor London Breed introduced to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday a proposal to open the drug sobering center for meth users at 1076 Howard St. in the South of Market area. The facility is intended to serve those experiencing mental health issues on the streets and reduce drug overdose fatalities.

“We can’t keep doing things the same way we’ve done them and expect to get a different result,” Breed told reporters Tuesday.

She said the impact of drug use, including psychosis, is “playing itself out on our streets every single day,” but she wants “to get people into a safe, clean environment with health care professionals who understand how to work with people struggling with addiction and hopefully those people are able to get the help and the support that they need.”

“Ultimately, we want to make sure that it’s easier to access help than it is to access and purchase drugs on our streets,” Breed added.

The site is also intended to provide more resources to bring people served by the recently launched Street Crisis Response Team, an alternative to policing pilot program that sends behavioral health professionals and paramedics to respond to certain 911 calls.

The site, which is expected to be operated by the nonprofit Healthright 360, would serve up to 20 people at any given time. Those who enter the facility would stay for about an average of eight to 10 hours.

The drug sobering center will cost $4.2 million to operate annually and $2 million in one-time capital costs. The City would open the facility in the fall. The lease, with an initial eight-year term, is for about 16,668 square feet of office space with an annual base rent of $854,235. The drug sobering center would be on the first floor and the second floor would include administration and gathering space for the Street Crisis Response Team.

Breed had previously announced a plan to open a drug sobering center at 180 Jones St. in the Tenderloin during the spring of 2020, but those plans were put on hold due to the pandemic.

The proposal is a component of San Francisco’s Mental Health SF initiative, which is an ongoing effort to reform The City’s behavioral health services.

“The drug sobering center will be an important part of our expanding continuum of care for people experiencing homelessness, substance use disorders and mental illness,” said Dr. Hillary Kunins, the Department of Public Health’s recently-hired director of Behavioral Health Services and Mental Health SF. The site is expected to remain open 24 hours per day.

Breed said she also still hopes to be able to open safe injection sites in San Francisco to prevent overdoses and connect people to services, something she has long supported. There were 708 fatal drug overdoses in San Francisco last year, according to the Medical Examiner’s Office.

But Breed is waiting on the approval of Senate Bill 57, introduced by state Sen. Scott Wiener, which would provide legal protections. SB 57 would allow a pilot of safe injection sites under state law in San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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