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SF would tap CEO salary tax to cover substance abuse services for residents

San Francisco voters will decide come November on whether The City should provide 24/7 services to help treat people suffering from mental health illness and substance abuse disorder.

Supervisors Hillary Ronen and Matt Haney announced a proposal at City Hall on Tuesday that would create the Mental Health SF program, which will provide San Francisco residents suffering from mental health illness and substance abuse with medicine, treatment and doctors.

Ronen said:

“It doesn’t matter how severe your mental illness or substance abuse illness is. It doesn’t matter what your insurance is. If you need help, we will provide it.”

The program would create the actual drop-in center that would provide the psychiatrists, medication, and access to substance abuse treatment for any San Franciscan. A mobile outreach team would reach out to people living on the streets.

A working group would be established to make recommendations on the appropriate staff to patient ratio.

Additionally, the program would create the Office of Coordinated Care, that will bring all of the hundreds of city-funded mental health care programs under one roof, and collect data, and manage patient outcomes to ensure patients are not just sent back onto the streets.

The initiative would also expand long-term care needs for patients at the psychiatric emergency rooms at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. The working group would make recommendations on what those expansion needs are.

Haney said:

“Right now, we have a system that is disconnected and disjointed. It lacks of the coherence that people need. It lacks the entry points and access. So, people are on our streets right now and actually want to treatment and don’t know how to get it.”

Mark Salazar, executive director of the Mental Health Association of San Francisco, said The City’s mental health care system has been broken for many years despite The City pouring in millions every year to address the problem:

“The vast majority of us cannot get timely access to appropriate mental health care and substance abuse treatment. We cannot get the care we need when needed.”

Funding for the program would come from the “Excessive CEO Salary Tax” that supervisors plan to send to the voters for the March 2020 election. It will require two-thirds of voters to approve the tax.

The tax would be a 0.1 percent surcharge on CEOs of companies who make more than 100 times more than their median employees, 0.2 percent surcharge for CEOs who make 200 times more and so forth.

Ronen said the program could be one of the most progressive steps that The City takes in addressing the mental health crisis and said The City has not yet lost its progressive edge:

“We’re going to create Mental Health SF that is going to be the best and most progressive program in the country because we are still San Francisco. We have not lost our heart and soul and we believe that everyone can live with dignity and wellness.”

The City is a midst of a debate on how deal with the mental health crisis with Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Rafael Mandelman supporting legislation that would expand conservatorship laws in The City thanks in part to state Senate Bill 1045 passing last year.

Supervisors will vote on on whether to expand conservatorship laws at their June 4 meeting.

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