San Francisco To Force Treatment On People With Severe Mental Illness

By Victoria Kim 06/10/19

Opponents of the controversial pilot program say it is a violation of civil rights.

streets of San Francisco

The growing population of mentally ill and drug-using San Franciscans has come to a head.

Faced with a crisis, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted last Tuesday (June 4) in favor of a pilot program that will “force some people with serious mental illness and drug addiction into treatment,” ABC News reported. However, opponents of the pilot program say it is a violation of civil rights.

San Francisco and the greater Bay Area have struggled to deal with mental illness and drug use, forcing officials to consider unconventional solutions.

One radical idea was presented by Oakland Councilman Noel Gallo, who introduced a resolution in May to decriminalize entheogenic plants including psilocybin (magic mushrooms), ayahuasca and iboga. “We need all the help we can get to deal with the mental health issues that we have,” said Gallo. The measure passed last week.

The controversial pilot program in San Francisco would “allow a court to appoint a public conservator” for a person who has been committed for psychiatric hospitalization “at least eight times in a year,” according to ABC News. Treatment could last as long as one year.

Currently the pilot would only apply to five people in San Francisco, but pending state legislation could expand that number to 55—the amount of people who currently match the criteria of having been committed at least eight times for a mental health issue.

There are an additional 48 individuals who have been committed six or seven times, according to the health department.

Clearly, the need for some kind of intervention is dire. San Francisco Mayor London Breed insists that the pilot program will help. “Allowing people to continue to suffer on our streets is not acceptable or humane, and I am glad the Board of Supervisors supported our approach to finally make a change,” Breed said in a statement.

State Sen. Scott Wiener, who co-authored legislation at the state level that would allow pilot programs in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego counties, agreed. “Too many people are deteriorating and dying on San Francisco’s streets, and we have a moral responsibility to help them,” he said.

The proposal for the pilot program passed by a 10-1 vote. According to ABC News, more supervisors signed on after the program was amended to require that the individual be given multiple chances to accept voluntary help. Mayor Breed also promised more funding for treatment in a proposed budget.

Supervisor Shamann Walton was the only “no” vote, voicing concern that the program did not account for the potential negative impact that it would have on people of color.

Another critic, Curt Child, legislative director of Disability Rights California, told ABC News, “This is a major civil rights issue in the sense of confining people against their will.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr