Supervisor Matt Haney on Tuesday was set to call for a stronger response to drug use and dealing. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Haney calls for ‘emergency response’ to drug use in the TL, SoMa

Supervisor Matt Haney called Tuesday for an “emergency response” to the use of drugs in the Tenderloin and South of Market Area.

He introduced a resolution at the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday that would declare street drug use and “rapidly increasing opioid overdose deaths” a public health crisis. The resolution calls on the Public Health Department to launch an “emergency response.”

“The open drug use and overdose deaths in our city are absolutely devastating, and are increasing at a terrifying rate,” Haney said Tuesday. “People in our city are dying from fentanyl and heroin overdoses at the highest rates ever. This drug crisis is wreaking havoc, particularly in our downtown neighborhoods.”

The resolution comes as the board on Tuesday approved separate legislation from Haney that establishes a task force to help draft a better plan to address street level drug dealing and drug use. The board will appoint members to the 12-member advisory task force, which will issue quarterly reports. The first report is due in March.

Haney has received sustained complaints from residents and small business owners to address the challenge.

As reported by the San Francisco Examiner last week, one business owner, Max Young, sent an Aug. 31 email to Mayor London Breed and Haney saying he shut down his bar, Mr. Smith’s, at Seventh and Stevenson streets because of the impacts of drug dealing.

Haney called the response from Breed and city departments “business as usual.”

“This is a public health and public safety crisis, deaths are skyrocketing, and our residents, especially those in the Tenderloin and South of Market, are feeling the awful impacts of this lack of action. We need an emergency response now,” Haney said.

Department of Public Health spokesperson Rachael Kagan said she had not yet reviewed the resolution and couldn’t comment on it.

“Preventing drug overdoses and deaths and making treatment available and accessible to all who need it is critical for the health of our communities,” Kagan said. “Our providers and community partners do that work every day and are actively engaged in multiple efforts. We have been increasing these efforts with urgency, and will continue to do so.”

Drug overdoses in San Francisco have claimed the lives of 259 people in 2018, according to the resolution, and experts believe the deaths will increase in 2019. The resolution said that 89 people died of fentanyl overdoses in 2018, a 300 percent increase from fentanyl overdoses in 2016. In the first quarter of this year, there have been 39 people who overdosed on fentanyl, “putting 2019 on track to surpass even last year’s numbers.”

The resolution calls on the Department of Public Health to create an emergency plan that would improve The City’s response “to address people who are using drugs, in psychosis, or overdosing.”

That includes increasing access to the opioid overdose reversing drug Narcan and more interaction by city staff and outreach workers with those on the street using drugs.

Haney is also asking for the plan to “identify and establish emergency detox and drop-in facilities” and wants the department to improve its public disclosure with “regular reporting of overdoses and overdose deaths.”

A board committee will hold a hearing on the resolution in the coming weeks before it comes to the full board for a vote.

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