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Public Health

SF To Replace Tenderloin Center With ‘Wellness Hubs’ in New Overdose Plan 

Written by David SjostedtPublished Sep. 28, 2022 • 4:25pm
A man utilizes the narcotic consumption booths at a safe injection site at OnPoint NYC on Monday, Jan. 24, 2022 in New York, NY. In 2021, New York City opened two supervised drug injection sites in the Harlem and Washington Heights neighborhoods in an effort to address the increase in overdose deaths. | Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

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The San Francisco Department of Public Health released an overdose prevention plan that includes creating at least two “wellness hubs” to replace the closing Tenderloin Center. 

Released on Wednesday, the 28-page plan also sets goals of creating 110 new treatment beds, increasing access to medically-assisted treatment and expanding naloxone distribution by nearly 30,000 kits annually. Coordinated by a new Office of Overdose Prevention, the health department hopes to reduce overdose deaths by 15% by 2025 and reduce “public drug use by providing safe and trusted places for people to visit,” according to a press release. 

The plan also seeks to redress racial disparities, noting that overdose deaths disproportionately impact Black San Franciscans and calling for expanded treatment options and greater engagement with at-risk groups, among other goals. 

“This strategic overdose plan builds upon the many successful efforts already underway in San Francisco, but with renewed focus, energy, and dedication to reducing racial disparities to reduce the tragic loss of life among San Franciscans,” said Dr. Hillary Kunins, the department’s head of behavioral health services, in a statement.

The health department’s plan comes amid greater scrutiny into the city’s inadequate response to soaring overdose deaths. 

Earlier this month, Supervisors Matt Dorsey, Rafael Mandelman and Catherine Stefani asked city departments to come up with a comprehensive solution to a staggering crisis that has taken more than 1,600 lives in San Francisco since 2020. 

In June, Supervisor Dean Preston also called for a hearing on the city’s overdose prevention plans; that hearing will be held tomorrow at the board’s Government Audit and Oversight Committee. 

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The Tenderloin Center, which served as a test case for the new wellness hubs, opened in January with the stated intention of connecting people with addiction and mental health disorders to treatment.

But the center quickly attracted controversy for serving as a de-facto safe consumption site; Mayor London Breed did not include additional funding for the site in the city’s budget and it is slated to close at the end of this year.

The city also plans to back safe consumption sites that will be operated by local nonprofits, despite Governor Gavin Newsom’s veto of a bill that would have allowed for the legal operation of such sites under state law.

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David Sjostedt can be reached at [email protected]


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