San Francisco's efforts to curb the rise in overdose deaths have so far not taken hold. Despite the sense of hopelessness and despair, those addicted and their family and friends must know there is a way out, Colfax said.
"The key things we want people to understand is that recovery is possible, treatment is available from a number of sites across the city, that we have evidence-based treatments and that we are doing everything we can to prevent more overdose deaths."
Health officials say they've already expanded outreach as well as services and treatment programs. Now, they've launched an overdose dashboard that will not only track overdose deaths in the city but overdose 911 calls and substance use services, such as what medications are being used to treat addiction.
San Francisco Director of Behavioral Health Hillary Kunins said, "This year, we have passed out more than 73,000 life-saving naloxone doses – routinely distributed in high-risk settings where people are vulnerable to overdose, including during our street care outreach and outreach to encampments in the city; the lobby of our jail; in treatment centers; and in permanent supportive housing."
City officials said the overdose trends identified in the dashboard will help guide the city's response to the crisis as it relates to expanding services and considering new strategies. (Related: NARCAN goes OVER THE COUNTER nationwide, saving people who overdose on FENTANYL before emergency services can arrive.)
San Francisco recorded 84 deaths in August, with 66 of them involving fentanyl. It tied with January of this year for the deadliest month since the city began tracking overdose deaths at the beginning of 2020.
According to reports by San Francisco officials, this year is on pace to exceed the record high of 725 deaths posted in 2020.
More than 560 users have died this year and another 300 are expected to die by the end of the year.
Yearly drug overdoses in San Francisco have steadily climbed since 2017 – peaking in 2020. The number dropped to 85 people in 2021 before rising in 2022, according to the San Francisco government.
The San Francisco Police Department has attempted to thwart the drug markets in high-profile areas, such as the Tenderloin. Police officers have seized 100 pounds of fentanyl between June and September.
In addition, more than 1,000 people have been arrested for the use or sale of narcotics, according to police.
"It's crazy, so sad out here, it's like a zombie apocalypse. You can't help people who don’t want help," Georgia Taylor, 21, who is homeless and abuses fentanyl, told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Fellow drug addict, 39-year-old Will Kretck, who was about to take a hit of fentanyl, noticed an unconscious man lying on the street. "Somebody help! Bring some Narcan!" Kretck yelled as he ran over and began CPR.
Another homeless man had dashed into his tent to grab a can and dispensed the opioid-reversing drug into the man's body – saving him.
"That's the fourth person I've saved in the last week and a half. I'm just glad he's not one of those who died. I've saved people and then later I hear they died and it just tears you up. That might be me someday," Kretck recalled.
Open-air drug markets are the norm in the Democrat-led city and streets are filled with addicts overdosing and walking around like zombies on tranq, street slang for the animal tranquilizer xylazine.
Kretck and Taylor are hoping to get clean again, but the former admits that it's difficult. "You could sell fentanyl on Catalina Island and people would get on rafts to go out there to buy it," he said.
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Watch this video of a fentanyl overdose survivor sharing her story.
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