Susan Lefever, wearing a black jacket and crossbody purse, stands in front of the glass windows of a storefront. There are flyers posted on the glass behind her.

San Francisco’s Fatal Overdose Crisis Was Decades in the Making

As San Francisco continues to search for solutions, our team at “Civic” is exploring the origins of the city’s opioid overdose crisis, what has been done to help and what might be making things worse. After six months of research involving hundreds of studies, reports and archival news clippings, and three dozen interviews with people with lived experience and professional expertise in homelessness, addiction, medicine, criminal justice, housing, social work, street outreach, business, education, harm reduction, policymaking and advocacy, we’re launching the series, “San Francisco and the Overdose Crisis.”

Over six episodes, the series will explore what influenced rampant opioid addiction and its connection to homelessness, the 150-year history of policing and prosecuting drugs in San Francisco, the long battle to open a safe consumption site in the city, and grassroots efforts to stem the tide of drug-related fatalities. 

Closeup photo of Supervisor Matt Dorsey smiling at the camera. The background shows city buildings and part of the Bay Bridge.

Supervisor Defends Dropping Support for Addiction-Treatment Centers

Supervisor Matt Dorsey received backlash this month for asking the mayor to redirect the entire $18.9 million in city funding budgeted for a new drop-in addiction treatment center toward jails instead.

Dorsey told the San Francisco Public Press that he reversed his previous support for the centers — called wellness hubs — once the city’s plans narrowed to one site from six, and removed safe consumption sites, which would have allowed people to consume drugs under supervision so they could receive immediate help in case of overdose.

Dorsey said he now wants the funds to go toward jail health services, including forcing treatment for people in jail who are struggling with substance abuse disorder.

Madison Alvarado - headshot

Madison Alvarado Discusses SF Reparations Plan on KALW Radio’s ‘Crosscurrents’

KALW News Editor Sunni Khaled interviewed Public Press reporter Madison Alvarado about her reporting on San Francisco’s reparations plan for KALW’s “Crosscurrents.” Listen to their conversation and read Alvarado’s story about the San Francisco African American Reparations Advisory Committee’s final recommendations, which it submitted to the Board of Supervisors last month.

A graphic from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner’s preliminary accidental drug overdose data report indicates the types of substances causing accidental fatal overdoses and number of deaths in San Francisco this year by day of death from Jan. 1 to July 31.

City Leaders at Odds as Overdose Deaths Trending Toward Record High

Accidental drug overdose deaths continue to torment San Francisco, according to data released Tuesday by the city medical examiner’s office.

While June saw the lowest monthly number of overdose deaths this year, 54, in July it climbed back up to 71. With 473 overdose deaths this year, San Francisco is on track to surpass its highest recorded number of overdose deaths in a calendar year — 725 in 2020.

A woman with a long black ponytail reaches up to straighten the frame of one of many black and white photographs displayed in a closely spaced array on a wall in an art gallery.

SF Reparations Plan Nears Submission, but Funding Not Yet Secure

After 2½ years of meetings, community discussions, historical deep dives and policy generation, a panel tasked with proposing how San Francisco might atone for decades of discrimination against Black residents is ready to ask the city to step up and support equity rhetoric with action.

San Francisco’s African American Reparations Advisory Committee is aiming to submit its final recommendations to the city by June 30, according to Brittni Chicuata, director of economic rights at the city’s Human Rights Commission. In the meantime, the city’s annual budget process is in full swing, which may affect funding and the timeline for whatever reparations policies the board decides to pursue.

A man in fatigues speaks into a microphone at a news conference. He is surrounded by other people in police and law enforcement uniforms. They stand in front of flags and a burgundy curtain.

Military-Style Drug War in Tenderloin Sparks Fears That More Drug Users Could Overdose

Last week’s deployment of the National Guard and California Highway Patrol onto San Francisco’s streets to crack down on drugs comes amid intense public pressure to address open air drug use and sales.

But the emphasis on law enforcement for addressing the city’s drug crisis has distressed public defense attorneys and harm reduction advocates who fear the move may worsen the rate of fatal overdoses.

An orange traffic cone marks the edge of a flooded roadway, which fills most of the frame. There is a fence on the right hand side and leafy trees and a low grassy hill in the background.

Intense Weather Stress-Tested SF’s Emergency Response

Rains this winter and early spring ended the drought in the Bay Area and brought a kind of weather whiplash that put San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Management to the test. 
 
Early in the storm cycle, the department faced challenges communicating with the public, especially with people experiencing homelessness. Internal confusion over the forecast delayed the opening of its Emergency Operations Center until a major storm was under way. In at least one instance, flood barriers were deployed too late to prevent homes and businesses from being inundated. 
 
Despite those missteps, the city rallied a coordinated response from its Emergency Operations Center, where multiple city agencies, along with Pacific Gas and Electric Co. representatives, gathered to discuss and act on emerging issues in real time.