San Francisco AIDS Foundation strongly opposes Prop F

Added by Mayor London Breed to the March 5 ballot, measure F will cut benefits for welfare recipients who are suspected of illicit substance use if they do not go to mandated treatment programs.

The California primary election is on Tuesday, March 5, 2024, and San Francisco voters will weigh in on Prop F on the ballot. Under the measure, those identified as using illicit drugs and who receive public benefits from the County Adult Assistance Program (CAAP) will be required to go through screening and enter treatment or lose their benefits.

As a state-licensed substance use disorder treatment provider, San Francisco AIDS Foundation knows well what it takes to bring people into treatment and to help them achieve their health goals, including recovery. Unfortunately, Prop F takes exactly the wrong approach, which has failed over and over again. This proposition will harm some of our most vulnerable program participants and does nothing to increase the supply of treatment services in San Francisco. Prop F is a flawed measure that will cut vital assistance to the most vulnerable and increase homelessness in San Francisco.

“San Franciscans rightfully want a city in which every inhabitant has secure housing and accessible health care, including substance use treatment,” said Laura Thomas, Senior Director, HIV and Harm Reduction Policy. “Prop F falls far short in achieving this. It is a seriously flawed proposal that will not get more people into treatment, but will only leave many more vulnerable people homeless.”

The Impact of Prop F

Prop F will increase homelessness

If the measure passes, anyone who receives public benefits from CAAP and is suspected of using illicit drugs will be required to go through screening. If they are determined to have a substance use disorder, they will be required to enter treatment or lose assistance. At any point, if the individual misses an appointment or is unable to accept the treatment, they lose their assistance.

Most CAAP recipients are in housing and shelter now and are likely to lose it along with their financial benefits. Even if they repeat the onerous process to become reinstated, they will owe back rent and can easily be evicted, making it more likely that thousands of people who receive housing or shelter now will end up on the streets.

The Human Services Agency (HSA) has acknowledged that many people will be kicked off of benefits because of this initiative. The San Francisco city government must prioritize getting people into secure and supportive housing, along with services that guide them towards treatment – not seek new ways to deprive them of vital assistance.

Prop F contradicts scientifically backed approaches to public health

Decades of research by public health experts clearly show that mandated or coerced treatment is ineffective and counterproductive. Extensive research demonstrates that punitive initiatives like Proposition F result in higher rates of relapse into substance use, increased overdose deaths, and elevated suicide rates. Providing more support and financial assistance actually works better to encourage access to treatment and improve health outcomes, not removing support.

Prop F wastes crucial healthcare resources

Under this proposal, the already overtaxed HSA workers will be made to do more with less. They will need to pre-screen clients, make referrals to treatment and terminate benefits. HSA will also have to hire clinicians to screen clients and make determinations, when San Francisco is already facing a dire clinical shortage. We need our clinicians to be on the frontlines in our clinics, hospitals and treatment programs, not performing screenings for a city agency. Prop F will actually result in more people being turned away for treatment as clinicians are diverted to assess CAAP recipients.

San Francisco does not currently have enough treatment for everyone who needs it. We need to ensure that we have sufficient, accessible, effective treatment for the many people on waitlists and in need of treatment and recovery services now, before we try forcing more people into the limited spots we have available. San Francisco has an excellent Overdose Prevention Plan that city leaders should be focused on implementing, not pushing ineffective and flawed proposals like Prop F.

Learn more at No on Prop F.