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SF votes yes on Prop F, mandating drug treatment for CAAP recipients

It was a full house at Anina, for the GrowSF election night watch party
Wren Farrell
It was a full house at Anina, for the GrowSF election night watch party

In Hayes Valley, an election night watch party hosted by a group of self-described moderate Democrats — including GrowSF, Together SF Action, and YIMBY Action — filled the bar Anina, on Hayes St.

Support at Anina for Proposition F was mixed.

“I'm disappointed in the preliminary results because I kind of feel like we know that drug testing for welfare doesn't work.”

This is Ira Kaplan, a voter in San Francisco.

“I don't know. I kind of get, like, we have a drug crisis in San Francisco. People might be like, let's throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. But this is one that we know doesn't work, so—and just makes things worse. So that one's a little disappointing.”

But there were many at Anina who supported the measure. Around 9 p.m. the crowd cheered at the preliminary results.

“Measure F, 65 percent, yes!”

Meanwhile, in the SoMa neighborhood, the California Working Families Party held an election watch party full of “progressive” Democrats, many of whom were opposed to Prop F.

“I think the more barriers that you put to people receiving any sort of treatment or public resource, um, you know, actually does more harm than good.” 

This is Leah LaCroix, she’s the first vice chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party.

“We've seen that these types of policies have not been successful in actually treating people and making a positive outcome for the individuals to get them into recovery.”

There are a lot of questions surrounding Prop F, specifically with regard to its funding and its staffing.

The Service Employees International Union-1021, which is San Francisco’s largest public sector union, actually asked that it be removed from the ballot.

The request was denied, but representatives there say that Prop F will exacerbate already challenging working conditions for staff at the Human Services Agency and other city departments, who would be responsible for its enforcement.

But Prop F spokesperson Joe Arellano says that the city is confident it can work out any issues related to staffing, funding, and enforcement.

“The mayor and our campaign will do everything that it takes to  meet any requirements necessary to ensure that Prop F can go into effect as soon as it can.”

Another concern has been about facilities. San Francisco simply doesn’t have enough treatment beds to accommodate the many people, who might need wraparound drug treatment services. But Arellano says that if the city can’t provide a bed, then Prop F will not be enforced.

“So, you know, no one loses CAAP if there's no slot for them in this treatment bed, if that's the, you know, type of treatment that is determined to be necessary for an individual. So we want to put folks at ease around that.”

However, Trent Rhorer, Executive Director of the Human Services Agency — which would be responsible for enforcement — says that SF will consider sending CAAP recipients to other counties to receive treatment. But the details about that haven’t been worked out yet.

Advocates, healthcare professionals, and other opponents of Prop F say that what is actually needed is housing, and harm reduction policies, not further criminalization of addiction. But Arellano says the Mayor disagrees.

“There has to be a focus as well on not only reducing the harm, but actually getting people into treatment before it gets to that point. We've tried harm reduction and we need to, you know, focus a little bit more on the stick now that we've tried the carrot.”

Now that Prop F has passed, the city will spend the rest of the year figuring out how the program is going to work.

Wren Farrell (he/him) is a writer, producer and journalist living in San Francisco.