Off the Streets and Into Care: Mental Health SF

More than 30,000 San Franciscans are currently uninsured, and with a growing homeless population, the city needed to act quickly in implementing Mental Health SF, a law that would give San Franciscans access to 24/7 mental health resources.

After an agreement between San Francisco Mayor London Breed and Supervisors Hillary Ronen and Matt Haney, Menta Health SF was introduced as city ordinance

“We’ve worked with hundreds of mental health professionals to design this innovative overhaul that is desperately needed,” said Supervisor Ronen, who worked with Supervisor Haney on Mental Health SF. “I believe that frontline workers who are dealing with these problems everyday have solutions to the problem. That’s why we worked so closely with them to create Mental Health SF.”

Mental Health SF was created by the Department of Public Health in an attempt to convert long-term care beds at San Francisco’s General Hospital’s Adult Residential Care Facility into short-term respite beds. After discussions with those in the field and unions, the objective is to save some long-term beds, which are crucial considering 38% of people treated in the only accessible psychiatric room are discharged back to the streets without any follow-up care.

On October 30, a crowd of nurses and people in the health care industry rallied on the steps of San Francisco City Hall in support of the Mental Health SF measure. Social workers, psychiatrists, and medications are among the round-the-clock care, alongside a Mental Health Service Center and new Office of Coordinated Care for patient follow-ups. The measure also calls for a rapid response team that will dedicate their duties to getting people with severe mental health conditions into care and off the streets.

Among rally goers were members of California’s long-term caregivers union SEIU 2015, National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), Professional Technical Engineers AFL-CIO Local 21 and SEIU Local 1021. Despite supply shortages, inadequate number of workers, and low pay, these working advocates have been front and center in the city’s mental health crisis.

“We’re tired of the status quo,” said Jennifer Esteen, a psychiatric nurse. “It was the workers who blew the whistle on the Adult Residential Facility crisis. Supervisors Ronen and Haney stood by our side when we fought for our patients. But we’re not done. We’re calling for a change to how San Francisco deals with its mental health crisis. The solution is Mental Health SF.”

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