SF Mayor Breed Shakes Up SF Welfare System with Drug Testing and Treatment Requirement

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Even the most committed progressives will eventually have to admit that reality exists. When companies offer doom tours to show the squalor of your city, you know that it’s time. San Francisco Mayor London Breed has announced a new initiative to provide drug testing and treatment to people who are addicted to drugs and wish to access the County Adult Assistance Programs.

In a press statement, the city stated that individuals who receive funds currently or want to enroll will be screened and enrolled in a program offered by the San Francisco Human Services Agency. These programs can include medically-assisted treatments, outpatient programs, and abstinence-based approaches. Those who do not comply with the treatment plan or refuse to complete it will either be denied CAAP enrollment or removed. Breed stated that San Francisco was “a city with compassion but also one that demands accountability.”

Catherine Stefani, the supervisor, was more direct. She said, “In order to combat the opioid crisis, we want to make it clear that the City will not give you money in order to purchase drugs. We are here to help if you’re ready. I think that requiring people with addiction problems to be in treatment programs to receive county financial assistance is not only a policy but a compassionate path towards recovery and stabilization.” Supervisor Raphael Mandelman noted San Francisco as the city where users of drugs go to die.

KRON 4 reported in August that the Coalition on Homelessness had presented the city a list of demands for settling a lawsuit. The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights filed the suit on behalf of the Coalition. These demands included the filling of vacant supportive housing units and increasing the supply of temporary shelter. They also demanded a solution to the issue with encampments, as well as better trash removal and sidewalk cleaning. This report followed another article that stated half of the homeless population of the city refused to stay at shelters. Breed was quoted in the article as saying “We cannot force people to accept shelter or stay there, and we are unable to stop people from setting up a camp in an area that has just been cleaned.” Breed said, “Every day our outreach teams are out helping people.” They are limited in what they can achieve, and they face immense pressure. They can’t monitor these sites for illegal activity 24/7. I want the public to be aware of the daily challenges that our outreach workers face. They are being recorded. Just for doing their job, they are targeted. “Even under these conditions, they help people find shelter.”

Breed’s proposal is a positive step but comes at a moment when the city has seen businesses and residents leave the area. Two questions remain, however: is the proposal too late and feasible?

The city could insist that drug testing and addiction treatment be a condition for CAAP benefits. This may kick off the initiative in a big way. What happens when those who refuse to live in shelters also refuse drug testing and treatment? What happens if a new lawsuit is filed on their behalf? Will the city finally give in and restore CAAP benefits to the residents? Breed, city supervisors, and even residents of San Francisco and its surrounding areas can see the problem clearly. Kudos for taking the first step in the correct direction. The other issue will be to sell it to the residents of Progressive, Inc., who are often motivated by lofty ideals, greed, and ambition. It will be very difficult to sell.