SAN FRANCISCO – While the COVID-19 crisis is playing out throughout the world, another crisis is unfolding on the streets of San Francisco, a cycle of addiction and overdose deaths that have claimed more lives than COVID in the city.

Tuesday, Mayor London Breed announced a first of its kind program to try and slow the crisis.

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The concept is called a sobering center and it would be a place for people to safely come off their high and access much more help, not to mention reducing pressure from overcrowded emergency rooms dealing with meth induced psychosis. An empty office building at 1076 Howard Street will become the city’s first drug sobering center.

“Just because we don’t want to see them, doesn’t mean they go away. We can’t keep doing things the same way we’ve done them and expect to get a different result,” said Mayor London Breed.

Dr. Grant Colfax says the sobering center could be a key puzzle piece into building a safety net for those in the throes of addiction.

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“A place where people can go to sober up, where they are supported and offered to be linked to treatment in a way that is a low barrier type of approach for people to recover from their acute intoxication and be offered other treatment and assistance if needed,” Dr. Colfax told KPIX 5.

Initial start up costs would be $2 million for the 30 bed center, with another $4.2 million a year for a staff of contracted addiction specialists to keep it running.

Breed says standard operating procedure on the streets as daily overdose deaths pile up is not working.

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“Ultimately, we want to make sure it is easier to access help than it is to access and purchase drugs on our streets and that’s what this sobering center is about.”