SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Mayor London Breed has announced the launching of police-free Street Wellness Response teams, the latest phase of her plan to address homelessness, crime and drug use on San Francisco’s streets.
The teams are part of Breed’s efforts to dial back police presence on calls for service that don’t involve criminal activity.READ MORE: Gas Leak In San Francisco's Inner Richmond Prompts Shelter-In-Place, Evacuations
“Building on the early success of the Street Crisis Response Team, we are continuing our work to make a significant change to improve how we effectively serve people in need on our streets,” Breed said in a statement. “Many calls to 911 or 311 about someone who appears to need help on our streets don’t require an armed police response, and often the services and care people need would be best provided by a paramedic or outreach worker instead of a police officer.”
In 2019, there were approximately 18,000 calls for assistance regarding “well-being checks” that were fielded by both 911 and 311 in which the police were ultimately deployed to respond.
The Street Wellness Response Teams will consist of community paramedics and EMTs from the San Francisco Fire Department and Homeless Outreach Team members from the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing.
They will be dispatched to focus on well-being checks and situations that require immediate attention — “but do not meet the threshold of an acute behavioral health crisis.”READ MORE: UPDATE: Cal ISO Extends Flex Alert Into Friday; Bay Area, NorCal Heat Wave May Break Records
This includes situations such as people who are lying down or sleeping or someone inappropriately clothed for the weather.
The new teams will be deployed on 12-hour shifts in an SFFD vehicle and have the ability to provide transportation services to individuals who might need that as part of the engagement.
The teams will analyze 911 and 311 calls for service to strategically assign teams to be in areas where there is high need and proactively respond to people in distress on the street who are not in an acute behavioral health crisis.
Existing outreach teams like the Homeless Outreach Team and Harm Reduction Outreach teams will continue to operate, complementing the Community Response Teams by providing ongoing, specialized outreach to people experiencing homelessness who need support to stabilize and move from streets to housing.
The mayor’s proposed budget for Fiscal Years 2021-22 and 2022-23, submitted on June 1 includes $9.6 million to fund five teams over two years.MORE NEWS: Newsom Signs Executive Order On Workplace Pandemic, Mask Rules Following Cal/OSHA Vote
If the team is approved in the budget when it is finalized at the end of July, they would begin the operational planning, developing protocols—including risk assessment and dispatch—and launch at least one team by January 2022 and build up to five teams total by April 2022.