The crisis ravaging our community

How the meth crisis is harming so many, and how we’re thinking outside the box to deliver evidence-based solutions

Our community faces a serious problem, one that has touched many of our lives and will continue to do so: the meth crisis.

Meth use has spiked all over California and in San Francisco, and worsened through the COVID-19 pandemic. Increased social isolation and mental health issues like depression have only exacerbated the problem. Since COVID-19 was declared a national emergency on March 12th, The Hill reports that patients across the country “tested positive for methamphetamines at a roughly 20 percent higher rate between March and May than previous samples.”

With drug overdose deaths on the rise across the country, the state, and in San Francisco — San Francisco had a record number of overdose deaths in 2020 — effective substance use interventions are more important than ever. In San Francisco, according to data collected in 2019, roughly 60% of all overdose deaths were meth-related. Additionally, pre-COVID-19, 50% of psychiatric emergency room admissions at San Francisco General Hospital were meth-related.

We must use every tool we have — and then some — to confront this crisis.

I’m pursuing two legislative strategies to do so:

  1. Senate Bill 110 allows and funds use of an effective form of treatment for meth addiction, called “contingency management” — providing financial incentives for people to get and stay sober.
  2. I championed a significant state budget investment in a meth sobering center for San Francisco.

SB 110, the Recovery Incentives Act, legalizes the substance use disorder treatment known as “contingency management,” and authorizes Medi-Cal to cover it. Contingency management has proven to be the most effective method of treatment for methamphetamine addiction, and is frequently used as a treatment program by the Veterans Affairs Administration. This intervention gives those struggling with substance use disorder financial rewards if they enter substance use treatment programs, stay in the program, and get and remain sober. This positive reinforcement helps people reduce and even fully stop substance use.

In the Biden-Harris administration’s new drug policy platform, increasing access to evidence-based treatment was slated as the number one priority. The Biden drug policy platform includes contingency management.

Stimulant use has also grown rapidly in the LGBTQ and Black communities, which were already deeply impacted by the meth crisis. The LGBTQ community — particularly gay, bi and trans men — have seen a rapid increase in meth use as a party drug taken to enhance sexual experiences. SFDPH also reports that the mortality rate is highest among African American men

SB 110 passed the Senate unanimously and has now passed its final policy committee in the Assembly. We are hopeful that it will be heard on the Assembly Floor for a final vote in early September before it goes to the Governor’s desk.

Additionally, I’m thrilled to announce that I was able to secure $5.2 million for San Francisco to open a meth sobering center. I worked hard to ensure this would be included in our state budget, and last night, the Governor signed the budget and made it final.

Meth sobering centers — a place where people who are high on meth can safely recover and seek medical care and resources — is a major priority for Mayor London Breed and the Board of Supervisors to combat San Francisco’s meth crisis. This state budget investment will significantly support San Francisco’s effort to get this done.

These are just two of the strategies we’re hoping will help mark a new chapter in our communities when it comes to meth use. Creative thinking and new approaches are critical in addressing the crisis, and SB 110 and the new meth sobering center will be important steps to that end.