San Francisco Marin Medical Society Blog

Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Rafael Mandelman Announce Plan to Create Drug Sobering Center in the Tenderloin



The City is moving forward to open San Francisco’s first drug sobering center at 180 Jones Street in the Tenderloin

San Francisco, CA (posted Thursday, February 06, 2020) — Mayor London N. Breed and Supervisor Rafael Mandelman today announced the City will open a drug sobering center for people who are experiencing the effects of methamphetamine and other substances. The new center will open this spring and is part of Mayor Breed’s commitment to providing 2,000 placements for people experiencing homelessness and behavioral health issues.

The drug sobering center will be located at 180 Jones Street, which is the future site of an affordable housing development owned by the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD). Local non-profit developer Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation will develop 71 permanently affordable homes at the site and construction is expected to begin in the fall of 2021. Until construction begins, the City will make use of the property to help people who are experiencing homelessness and the effects of substance use.

“Sobering centers help people off the streets and provide a safe place indoors where they can get connected to services,” said Mayor Breed. “The reality is that drug use and overdoses are on the rise and doing nothing is not an option. We’re taking action to implement the recommendations of our Meth Task Force because the public drug use we see every day hurts those who are suffering from addiction as well as the surrounding communities.”

“San Francisco is facing a methamphetamine crisis,” said Supervisor Mandelman. “We see it on our streets, in our hospital emergency rooms, in our jails, and all too often on the growing list of San Franciscans dying from overdoses. The 2019 Methamphetamine Task Force, which I co-chaired, identified the establishment of drug sobering centers as it number one recommendation, and I am glad to see the Mayor and the Department of Public Health moving quickly to implement this proposal.”

The goals of the drug sobering center include reducing overdose deaths, reducing the harms of substance use in the surrounding neighborhood, and providing resources that can give people who use drugs an alternative to hospital and jail stays and an opportunity to begin their journey toward recovery when they are ready. At the center, the City will offer harm reduction services in a safe, welcoming setting with professional health workers and peer counselors. People under the influence of methamphetamine and other substances can move safely through intoxication, then have an opportunity to engage in conversation about wellness and recovery options available to them, and be connected to housing resources.

Specifically, services will include: medical care and observation; linkage to social services and shelter or housing; referral to primary medical and psychiatric community providers; individual and group counseling; provision of snacks, hygiene supplies and showers; and transportation to medical and social service appointments or destinations. 

This first drug sobering center will be a 15-bed pilot project where clients may stay an average of eight to ten hours, though some may stay longer. The facility is able to serve 15 individuals at a time but over the course of a 24-hour period, can serve up to three times that amount. Findings from this effort will inform near-term future investments to save lives and promote safety in the Tenderloin and throughout the city. The Department of Public Health will evaluate the pilot program and refine the model for replication in other locations in San Francisco.

“Creating a drug sobering center will save lives,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, Director of Health. “As we work to transform our behavioral health system of care, we are creating more safe and welcoming places where people experiencing homelessness, substance use disorder and mental illness can find paths to wellness and recovery.”

“We know that about half of the people who come in to psychiatric emergency services at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital have a methamphetamine-related problem,” said Dr. Anton Nigusse Bland, Director of Mental Health Reform. “And half of them come voluntarily, asking for help. The drug sobering center will offer a safe, community-based alternative where they can receive support and connect to services.”

“Housing and health outcomes are deeply intertwined which is why a drug sobering center at our 180 Jones site is the optimal interim use for the property,” said Dan Adams, MOHCD Acting Director. “We are proud to be partnering with the Department of Public Health on this pilot project to ensure residents in need in the Tenderloin have a secure place to receive the services they need.”

Creating a drug sobering center was the top recommendation of San Francisco’s Methamphetamine Task Force, which noted that overdose death linked to methamphetamine has increased significantly in the City since 2008. In October 2019, Mayor Breed and Supervisor Mandelman pledged to move forward with the sobering center as a way to help people who use methamphetamine to get off the streets and connected to services. Mental Health SF also calls for the creation of a drug sobering center.

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