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San Francisco Moves Forward with Drug Sobering Center

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San Francisco city officials on Wednesday announced plans to move forward with opening a drug sobering center under a pilot program for people under the influence of drugs such as methamphetamine or fentanyl.

Efforts to open the center are part of the city’s Mental Health SF plan, an initiative to revamp mental health and substance use treatment in the city.

The center would be located at 1076 Howard St. and would seek to reduce overdose deaths and provide people suffering from substance use issues with resources, offering an alternative to hospital and jail stays.

“The public drug use we see on our streets hurts those who are suffering from addiction as well as the surrounding communities,” Mayor London Breed said in a statement. “This location will provide a safe place for our Street Crisis Response Team and other outreach efforts to bring people who are using drugs and should not be left to themselves. It’s a way we can intervene, address the immediate issue, and then also get them connected to the longer-term services and support they need.”

In Feb. 2020, Breed initially announced plans to open the city’s first drug sobering center via a pilot program at 180 Jones St.

But just as the COVID-19 pandemic got underway, plans for the pilot program were nixed, as the Jones Street location became a safe sleeping site for the homeless.

For the new pilot program, the city has partnered with the health care company HealthRIGHT 360, providing a 20-bed facility that allows patients to stay 10 hours or longer. Patients will also be offered harm reduction services and access to peer counselors and health care services, in addition to clothing, showers and hygiene supplies.

“Creating a drug sobering center will save lives,” San Francisco Department of Public Health Dr. Grant Colfax said. “When we welcome people who are experiencing the effects of substance use into a supportive place, off the street, we can create safety for them and for our neighborhoods.”

The lease for the new Howard Street location will first need to be approved by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in the coming weeks.

Once the program gets underway, the city is hoping to refine it and replicate it throughout San Francisco.

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