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Dozens demand change in how city of San Francisco deals with opioid crisis

Dozens of people from a coalition of groups marched to San Francisco City Hall Monday, calling for a change in the way the city deals with the opioid epidemic. 

One of the most vocal advocates for addiction treatment reform said the city needs to create as many options as possible to stem the growing tide of overdoses.

“We need to be taking all kinds of action, which means accountability for the dealers, that means more drug treatment, that means treatment on demand, that means detox. Yes, it can even mean supervised consumption, if that’s gonna help,” said Tom Wolf, antiaddiction advocate. 

Organizers said this was not supposed to be a political rally.

But as Mayor London Breed was among those involved in the march, and as she took the podium, the crowd burst out chanting, “four more years, four more years.”

The mayor’s speech included a couple references to fentanyl and how many people continue to die due to fentanyl overdose.

She said San Francisco is now averaging two deaths per day.

The mayor also took credit for programs that were created during her tenure to try to address the issue. Including expanding treatment beds, launching a street crisis team, and funding abstinence-based treatment programs.

At the rally, she and others focused on the growing debate over so-called “harm reduction” programs.

Supporters say the programs, which aim to manage addiction rather than push someone to overcome it, is a realistic and effective solution.

Critics say it simply enables addicts.

“Cause you know what, harm reduction from my perspective is not reducing the harm. It is making things far worse,” said Breed. 

One of her challengers, Supervisor Ahsha Safai, joined the march, but did not speak at the event.

He does not support getting rid of harm reduction strategies, and said an array of solutions are needed to address the complex problem.

“We have to have the whole gambit of services. But what’s been missing in the last five years, leadership under this mayor,” said the mayoral candidate. “We have the funding, we have the resources, there hasn’t been the coordination.”

The rally on the steps of San Francisco City Hall also comes as mayoral challenger Daniel Lurie released his plan to deal with the unhoused, and for mental health treatment.

Some of his plan includes better coordinating some many of the cities already available options.

But he said police and first responders also need more options for dealing with people in crisis.

“We will open a 24/7 drop off crisis center where police and co-responders can drop off individuals in mental health crisis, or those who have opted for treatment,” said Lurie. 

The nonprofit founder is also running for mayor.

Lurie’s campaign said that right now, people are taken to jail, then quickly released. Or taken to general hospital, then quickly released.

He said that has to change.

NBC Bay Area also reached out to candidate Mark Farrell’s campaign for comment on these issues and has not gotten a response.

Source: NBC Bay Area

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