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For the first time in three years, the number of overdose deaths in San Francisco has gone down, with a 7 percent decrease in 2021 compared to the previous year, city officials said.
In 2021 there were 650 overdose deaths in the city, compared to 700 in 2020 — marking the first time overdose deaths have declined in the city since 2018 — according to preliminary data from the city’s Medical Examiner’s Office.
Fentanyl, a synthetic and very potent opioid drug, is the main factor contributing to the overdose deaths, as a small amount can be deadly, according to a recent report released by the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s Center on Substance Use and Health.
Mayor London Breed credited the drop to several programs that have been implemented to prevent overdoses, including increased funding for drug use and mental health treatment programs.
“We know that every overdose death is preventable, and we know that we still have a long way to go, but we must act aggressively to ensure that every resident receives the support and services they so desperately need,” Breed said in a statement.
According to the report, in 2020, a combined effort by coordinated city services was able to reverse more than 4,300 overdoses with naloxone. Also, between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, 2021, more than 6,800 overdoses were reversed in the city due to increased naloxone distribution.
In addition to previous efforts like increasing mental health and drug treatment beds and creating a Street Overdose Response Team, the city this month launched a first-of-its-kind Linkage Center, which will be able to offer voluntary drug and mental health support to up to 100 patients daily.
Furthermore, the city is planning on opening a new drug sobering center, SoMa RISE, which serves as a safe space for intoxicated people, as well as a safe consumption site that will allow people to consume drugs under the watch of health and medical professionals.
SFDPH Director Dr. Grant Colfax said, “We look to 2022 with optimism and hope given the many efforts and resources being deployed at a rapid pace and the commitment of our communities and partners throughout the city to save lives.”