A group of San Francisco supervisors has released an ambitious strategy to confront the city’s rise in fatal drug overdoses.

Labeled “San Francisco Recovers,” the resolution plans to use some of the $100 million the city earned in opioid litigation settlements over the past few years in a three-pronged approach — incentivizing and supporting those with substance-use disorders to seek recovery, ending street-level using and dealing and calling on 21 city departments to analyze their resources and obstacles to progress.

Nearly 1,700 San Franciscans have lost their lives to drug overdoses since January 2020 — nearly double the amount of COVID-19 fatalities seen in the same time frame, according to city data.

Supervisor Matt Dorsey, joined by Supervisors Rafael Mandelman and Catherine Stefani, introduced this resolution, saying that this is the type of strategy San Franciscans are expecting in order to make a lasting change.

Dorsey said San Francisco Recovers is largely inspired by methods employed by major cities across the U.S. and Europe that have successfully combated drug crises of their own.

“San Franciscans are demanding solutions as big as our problems, and none of the problems facing our City right now are more visible, more destructive, or more deadly than rampant street-level drug dealing, open-air drug scenes and overdoses,” said Dorsey in a statement.

Potential solutions

If the resolution is approved, city departments have 90 days to report back on their findings, and the board will discuss “evidence-based” solutions. Some potential solutions to consider are already listed in the 21-page plan, with a specific focus on public health, criminal justice, enhanced transparency and two programs called “Sober New Deal” and “Right to Recovery.”

The “Right to Recovery” program would expand housing resources for those recovering from addiction, and encourage law enforcement to arrest drug dealers and confiscate illegal drugs being used outside of treatment facilities and safe consumption sites.

The “Sober New Deal” would provide more education and career-based resources for those in recovery, including job training, a student loan program and food and health assistance.

San Francisco Recovers also takes on five recommendations from the city’s 2021 Street-Level Drug Dealing Task Force, including implementing supervised consumption sites.

“‘San Francisco Recovers’ calls on all of city government to upend the status quo of unmitigated suffering on our streets.”

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman

In August, Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would legalize a safe consumption pilot program in San Francisco, Oakland and the city of Los Angeles.

Mandelman said the city’s future demands an end to open-air drug markets, and this resolution paves a road to a solution.

“Residents, small business owners and visitors are justifiably frustrated that despite our $600 million behavioral health budget, hundreds of people continue to die of overdoses year after year,” Mandelman said in a statement. “‘San Francisco Recovers’ calls on all of city government to upend the status quo of unmitigated suffering on our streets, and I look forward to working alongside Supervisor Dorsey to make real this vision.”

The plan also states that harm-reduction strategies help achieve what should be public health policy’s main goal in caring for people with substance-use disorders — promoting recovery by any “evidence-based route.”

“We have thousands of people slowly dying on our streets and we must do everything we can to make sure that people struggling from addiction get the help they need. It’s time to end the open air drug markets, get fentanyl off our streets, reduce overdoses, and get people into recovery,” said Stefani in a statement.