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OP-ED: Opioid Crisis Expands–San Francisco Has More Drug Addicts Than Public High School Students

In tonight’s State Of The Union Address, President Trump is expected to address the opioid crisis, and lawmakers from both sides agree we must do more combat this epidemic. The opioid crisis hit new proportions in The Golden Gate City, with San Francisco reporting more injection drug users than public high school students. Phil Matier from The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

San Francisco has more drug addicts than it has students enrolled in its public high schools, the city Health Department’s latest estimates conclude.

There are about 24,500 injection drug users in San Francisco — that’s about 8,500 more people than the nearly 16,000 students enrolled in San Francisco Unified School District’s 15 high schools and illustrates the scope of the problem on the city’s streets.

It’s also an increase of about 2,000 serious drug users since 2012, the last time a study was done.

“There is an opioid epidemic in this country, and San Francisco is no exception,” Deputy Director of Health Dr. Naveena Bobba said … Last year there were 193 drug overdose deaths, of which 112 were from opioids.

Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), who represents California’s 27th District, recently joined Bold TV to discuss H.R. 6, a bill to combat the opioid crisis which was recently passed into law and signed by President Trump.

Rep. Chu said the need for the drug naloxone —  a drug that can reverse the effects of an overdose — came to her attention after a constituent of hers lost his best friend to an opioid overdose. The friend was living in a sober living home and the home did not have naloxone on the premise. Chu said she was fortunate enough to have her Ensuring Access to Quality Sober Living Act incorporated in H.R. 6., to help address this naloxone issue. H.R. 6 also helps expand coverage for services provided by certified opioid-treatment programs under both Medicaid and Medicare.

San Francisco is known for its fast-paced, high tech community. There’s no reason why such an advanced community should continue to see this type of health regression. H.R. 6 is incremental progress to help combat the opioid crisis, which is a multifaceted problem caused by breakdowns on many fronts, including lack of family and social support. Too often we are focused on fighting drug addiction within the criminal justice system (as we should to prevent violent crime) when its underlying driver is a breakdown in mental health. To address drug addiction-related violence after the fact without addressing the underlying mental health problems is a recipe for prison re-entry.

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