San Francisco’s New Rule: Drug Users Must Enter Treatment for Cash Assistance

Mayor London Breed announced a proposed rule on Tuesday that mandates drug users seeking cash assistance in San Francisco County to first enter treatment. This proposal is part of a broader plan aimed at ensuring accountability among recipients of government aid.

Under this initiative, individuals who are homeless or formerly homeless and seek financial assistance from the city and county would need to undergo a screening process and subsequently participate in substance abuse treatment to receive the funds.

Mayor Breed expressed concern about the rising number of overdose deaths in the city, emphasizing the urgency of addressing this crisis. She stated, “We’re on track in this city this year to exceed the highest number of overdose deaths that we have since this thing has really taken over, dominated, destroyed and taken away lives, and we need to do something about it.”

Mayor Breed, accompanied by Supervisor Matt Dorsey, Trent Rhorer from the San Francisco Human Services Agency, and other stakeholders, discussed the details of this plan. Rhorer noted that there are approximately 5,200 people enrolled in the County Adult Assistance Program, which provides cash assistance to homeless and formerly homeless individuals.

The proposed approach involves assessing everyone to determine if they have a substance abuse disorder. Those identified as needing treatment would be required to undergo substance abuse treatment before receiving financial assistance. Treatment options could vary, including medically-assisted treatment and outpatient options. Those who refuse or do not successfully engage in treatment would be ineligible for funds.

Mayor Breed stressed the importance of accountability in addressing homelessness and the associated issues. She stated, “I am grateful for the clarification from the city attorney around the work we’re doing to clear encampments in San Francisco… there has to be an accountability piece attached to that.”

This announcement follows increased efforts by the city to address homeless encampments. City Attorney David Chiu explained that a judge has clarified an injunction, allowing the city to clear encampments after offering shelter to individuals living on the streets.

Mayor Breed anticipates that this initiative will undergo review by the Board of Supervisors, with the ultimate goal of increasing access to treatment for those in need.

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