Calling themselves the Mad Mob, a new group of those with mental health disabilities in San Francisco marched on the Department of Public Health Friday demanding increased spending to expand voluntary services.
They are fed up with City Hall telling those who need the services what’s best for them and want to play a larger role in the future of policies around mental health services.
The name has several intentions, including to show “we are a forceful group working together as a team,” said one of its organizers, Eddie Stiel, a longtime Mission District resident who suffers from from depression and anxiety.
The group, launched with the help of the nonprofit San Francisco Senior and Disability Action, formed largely in reaction to the Board of Supervisors and Mayor London Breed approving a program in June to increase The City’s authority to compel people into court-ordered conservatorship under SB1045, which they consider a “war on unhoused and disabled people.”
No one has yet been conserved under the program eight months later, as previously reported by the San Francisco Examiner. A mayoral spokesperson has said The City remains working out the logistics for the legal process through the courts but expects “we will be able to proceed with advancing cases soon.”
The rally outside of the Department of Public Health, across from City Hall, was Mad Mob’s first public protest and drew about 20 participants. After the rally they marched inside to deliver a letter to department head Dr. Grant Colfax with a list of demands. They had to settle for handing it to an administrative assistant to deliver to him.
While The City has adopted a broad new expansion of services, known as Mental Health SF, the effort lacks funding. The City is working to place a business tax reform measure on the November ballot to raise the more than $100 million a year needed to fund it.
But the Mad Mob said in the letter that they want to speed up the service increase.
“We would like to see a commitment from the Mayor’s Office to fund Mental Health San Francisco now instead of waiting for a ballot measure that may not pass,” the letter reads. “This expansion of services is greatly needed, and people waiting for treatment could die before the funding comes through.”
Stiel said that “they need to fund these services.”
“If they want to help us and help people that have problems with mental health you have to be able to get voluntary treatment,” Stiel said. “[Mental Health SF is] no good until it’s funded.”
Mayoral spokesperson Jeff Cretan said that the mayor and board are both committed to placing a revenue measure on the November ballot to fund Mental Health SF “as well as to work in the near-term to begin implementing the policies and programs we can within our existing budget.”
He said that The City has already committed to adding more resources, such as behavioral health beds and “improving coordination across departments to better care for our most vulnerable.”
The letter also asks for “community mental healthcare in conjunction with housing to ensure the wellbeing and safety of all San Francisco residents.”
The letter comes as city departments are working on their budget submissions to the Mayor’s Office. Breed must present a city budget proposal to the Board of Supervisors for review by June 1. Citing a projected budget deficit, Breed has directed city departments to submit budget proposals with 3.5 percent cuts in each of the next two fiscal years.
It also comes as the Department of Public Health this week laid out clear strategies for itself around homelessness and behavioral health, including improving a patient’s ability to reach treatment goals and “increase the number of clients who maintain housing.”
Raina Daniels, a peer programs coordinator at Mental Health Association of San Francisco who participated in the Mad Mob rally, said that “peer informed policy is really the only way that policies ever actually make an impact on people’s lives.”
Daniels said that Mental Health SF “is not an end all solution” but that “some of the services are a step in the right direction that could take a step in a very wrong direction if they aren’t directed by people who actually access those services.”
The San Francisco Department of Public Health said in a statement to the Examiner that it “welcomes the experience and commitment of people living with mental health disabilities as we work together with Mayor London Breed, the Board of Supervisors and other City departments to accomplish the goals of Mental Health SF.”