The state is investigating San Francisco’s largest drug treatment provider after two people fatally overdosed within the last month at a facility it runs, a spokesperson confirmed.
The drug treatment nonprofit HealthRight 360 reported to the California Department of Health Care Services that two overdose deaths had taken place at its residential treatment program Walden House, which immediately prompted an investigation, according to Gary McCoy, a spokesperson for the nonprofit.
One of the clients fatally overdosed on Tuesday, while the other died three weeks ago, McCoy said. The San Francisco Chronicle first reported the deaths and the state investigation.
San Francisco has struggled to contain the rise of fentanyl as a record number, 806 people, died last year from drug overdoses, according to preliminary data from the Chief Medical Examiner's Office.
Healthright360 held contracts with the city worth more than $200 million in total last year.
The nonprofit fell under scrutiny after its detox program shut down intakes for roughly two weeks due to a Covid outbreak in 2023.
The Standard later reported that around half of the people who sought treatment from the nonprofit’s detox weren’t admitted. The nonprofit said many of the people who weren’t admitted were taken to other programs or had changed their mind during the intake process.
One person died at the Walden House treatment program in March 2020, according to data from the medical examiner’s office.
Medical Examiner's records also indicate that two fatal drug overdoses took place last year at HealthRight 360's "step-down" treatment program at 214 Haight Street. McCoy said the group's database shows just one client death in that program in 2023 but that he was looking into the discrepancy.
The Department of Public Health said in a statement that it has asked HealthRight360 to conduct an internal review of its policies.
McCoy said the organization is “working through workflows, conducting analysis, and looking for areas for improvement” in response to the recent deaths.
He said HealthRight 360's treatment programs were no stranger to the fallout from fentanyl. He stressed, however, that drug use is not permitted in the nonprofit's treatment facilities.
"Treatment programs are not immune to the problems of the outside world," McCoy said. "We definitely don’t allow drug use in programs. … That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen."