San Francisco Proclamation Says More Died From Drug Overdose in 2020 Than From COVID

A proclamation by San Francisco’s mayor said there were more deaths from drug overdoses compared to people who died from coronavirus in 2020.

Mayor London Breed released the proclamation declaring a local emergency for drug overdoses in the city’s Tenderloin neighborhood. It stated that over 700 people died from drug overdoses in San Francisco last year, which « far exceeded » the number of people who succumbed to COVID-19.

From the beginning of this year until November, almost 600 people have died from drug overdoses, with half of the fatalities happening in the Tenderloin area. Since 2018, overdose-related deaths have increased by 200 percent.

The Tenderloin neighborhood struggles with a high number of drug dealers, people using drugs out in the open, and a large homeless population. Last week, Breed said it wasn’t fair that residents in the neighborhood couldn’t leave their homes or use nearby public facilities like the park.

It’s time to be « less tolerant of all the bull— that has destroyed our city, » she said then.

Breed’s plan to handle the situation recommends putting drug users in jail if they won’t accept treatment. However, Chesa Boudin, San Francisco’s district attorney, said Breed’s plan to jail drug users would be ineffective.

FILE – San Francisco Mayor London Breed talks during a briefing outside City Hall in San Francisco on Dec. 1, 2021. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors will consider Thursday, Dec. 23, 2021, an emergency order to speed up the city’s ability to stem the high number of overdose deaths in the notorious Tenderloin district. The emergency order is part of Mayor Breed’s plan to crack down on drug use and drug dealing in the neighborhood.
Eric Risberg/AP Photo

« When someone is openly using drugs on the street, we’re going to give them the option of going to the services and treatment we’re providing. But if they refuse, we’re not going to allow them to continue using on the street, » Breed said on social media this week.

The public health emergency declaration allows the Department of Emergency Management to waive permitting, zoning and contract procurement rules to more quickly hire street cleaners and security and to set up a new temporary center where people can receive treatment and counseling, Breed has said.

The order has nothing to do with police deployment, but critics are urging the Board of Supervisors to reject the declaration because of Breed’s broader plan to flood the area with officers and force drug users into jail if they won’t accept treatment.

Boudin said that jailing people struggling with addiction, mental health issues and homelessness would not work and they want Breed to use the money on adding more treatment beds, shelters, job training and other social services.

« Threatening people with arrest doesn’t work as a way to get addicted folks into treatment, » said San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston, who wants the mayor to spend money on expanding mental health services, alternatives to policing and hotel rooms for the homeless.

Politically liberal cities across the U.S. are grappling with crime in the wake of the 2020 murder of George Floyd, when their elected leaders pledged ways to reduce friction between police and vulnerable communities of color, particularly African Americans such as Floyd.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

FILE – People sleep near discarded clothing and used needles on a street in the Tenderloin neighborhood in San Francisco, on July 25, 2019. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors will consider Thursday, Dec. 23, 2021, an emergency order to speed up the city’s ability to stem the high number of overdose deaths in the notorious Tenderloin district. The emergency order is part of Mayor London Breed’s plan to crack down on drug use and drug dealing in the neighborhood.
Janie Har/AP Photo

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