With Friday’s announcement that a proposed housing bond has increased from $500 million to $600 million, one supervisor called for the additional funding to go toward supportive housing for those exiting mental health and substance use treatment.
Supervisor Matt Haney said Friday that “this additional $100 million should prioritize supportive housing, especially for people who are coming out of mental health and substance use treatment.”
“Forty-four percent of people who exit residential treatment are released back onto the street without housing exits. This is deplorable,” he said.
Haney said that it is a lack of services that has a created a system where “this vulnerable population more often than not ends up back on the streets” even though The City knows “the models that work.”
“Treatment plus housing and case management is the solution — we need a lot more of it.”
Earlier this week, Haney and three other supervisors penned a letter to Anton Nigusse Bland, The City’s director of mental health reform, a position newly created by Mayor London Breed, outlining multiple concerns with the behavioral health system.
“We are writing you out of deep concern for our mental health and substance abuse system which is in complete disarray,” said the letter to Bland from Haney along with board president Norman Yee and Supervisors Hillary Ronen and Shamann Walton. “While we have some well-run programs that are meeting their stated goals, these programs have been uncoordinated for decades with each functioning in a silo.”
The letter continued, “There is no coherent system in San Francisco to get people off the street, into treatment and on a path toward long-term recovery.”
They wrote that “every year we spend approximately $25 million on individuals languishing in a locked ward at [San Francisco General Hospital] because there are no openings in appropriate community based programs to place them in.”
The letter points to findings from several hearings the board has had on the issue, including long waitlists for mental health and substance use services, the lack of referrals to services for those discharged from Psychiatric Emergency Services and the lack of a clear analysis of the number of additional treatment beds The City needs.
The letter noted that outreach programs are “understaffed and underpaid,” with ratios of one intensive case manager to every 17 clients. And it called for “outreach teams working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week” to stabilize people on the street.
The letter comes as the board is set to vote June 4 on whether to implement Senate Bill 1045, which allows for court-ordered treatment of those who are held on psychiatric emergency holds eight times in one year and who have both a mental illness and a substance use issue.
The supervisors give Bland until June 15 to respond and meet with them to address their concerns.
In response to the letter, Department of Public Health spokesperson Rachael Kagan said that Breed appointed Bland, who started April 8, to “to lead a strategic review of the system and identify improvements, with a particular focus on care for clients experiencing homelessness.”
She said that “we are happy to keep the Supervisors updated on the Department’s progress. We appreciate and share their concerns about improving the system so that the most vulnerable residents can achieve wellness and recovery.”
Breed announced Friday with Yee that they are supporting a $100 million increase to their proposed $500 million affordable housing bond for the November ballot after “the Controller announced the City’s debt capacity has increased by that amount.”
“This Affordable Housing Bond will fund the rehabilitation and creation of thousands of units of affordable housing for San Franciscans, including our public housing residents, people exiting homelessness, seniors, working families, and middle-income households,” Breed said in a statement.
The bond is pending approval by the Board of Supervisors.