SF lies about unfilled beds for mentally ill
September 3, 2019 8:42 AM   Subscribe

Last month, a hue and cry was raised in response to a plan from the mayor and Department of Public Health to repurpose scores of beds on the San Francisco General Hospital campus reserved to permanently house the severely mentally ill into temporary beds for the homeless. Temporary respites are good. But permanent housing is better. And the Department of Public Health’s rationale for transforming permanent housing into temporary shelter unearthed an even more disturbing fact. In the midst of a homeless crisis that often relegates San Francisco’s vulnerable mentally ill to the streets, dozens of the beds created to permanently house them at the city’s Behavioral Health Center weren’t being used. From Mission Local

You don’t have to be a trained mental health professional to notice 45 empty beds, or the dearth of new patients — a situation that simply shouldn’t happen in a city with San Francisco’s visible needs and woes. But, of course, the trained mental health professionals working here did notice, and they asked about it. Mission Local has spoken to some dozen current or former workers here. They confirm they were told by management figures up to and including Behavioral Health Center director Linda Sims that the Adult Residential Facility and Residential Care for the Elderly were “on probation” following a series of violations observed by state inspectors. That probation, workers say they were told, precluded the hospital from admitting new patients. As it turns out, those employees were lied to.

The Department of Public Health did not approve our request to interview Linda Sims. But it did confirm that workers at the Behavioral Health Center were told it was “on probation” — while, simultaneously, confirming that the Behavioral Health Center is not on probation and never has been.

Related: Homeless shelter opponents use attack as ammunition in fight against city via San Francisco Examiner
Scathing new audit finds deep operational failures at L.A.’s top homeless outreach agency via Los Angeles Times
'This place is a blessing': Eden Village founders, residents reflect on one-year anniversary via Springfield News-Leader (Missouri)

Previously on the blue: How America moves its homeless
Why San Francisco Techies Hate the City They Transformed
That armrest isn't what you think (welcome to hostile architecture)
posted by Bella Donna (9 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Mod note: Couple comments deleted; let's rewind and not start a thread off with something you think is going to pick a fight? The excerpt in the post itself mentions that people with severe mental illness can often become homeless.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:19 AM on September 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

It drives me up the freakin wall to see SO MANY people wandering our streets here without the help they need. They are literally wandering amongst the Teslas and Maseratis of the ultra-wealthy that can't be burdened by the fact that this city funds less than 100 psychiatric beds for the thousands of people sleeping on the street with untreated psychoses. It makes it unsafe for pedestrians and we seem to have become collectively satisfied with the random murder here and there by people who could be getting the care they need to not hurt others.

I'm not trying to pick a fight or put anybody down, but as far as I'm concerned if you can afford to own a house in the bay area, your taxes aren't high enough to fund helping the homeless and in particular the mentally ill in our city. Shame on all of us. Breed's office is trying to do something about it, but it's too little and too late.
posted by allkindsoftime at 9:42 AM on September 3, 2019 [7 favorites]

This is a deeply bizarre story even in the category of "large organizations choosing not to do their job after being paid attention to by regulators."
posted by PMdixon at 9:45 AM on September 3, 2019

I love that the official explanation for 30% of the beds being empty was "we were told our care was so negligent we're not allowed to take new patients". Only it turns out the regulatory agency actually said "your care is negligent, but please keep taking new patients". Dysfunction on top of dysfunction.

I'm a good San Francisco liberal. I pay my taxes with a smile, I like the idea of the government providing services and housing to the people in need. But it makes me very angry that we spend so much money for these things and then it is administered incompetently. It's not enough to have government; you have to have effective government, with oversight and people motivated to do their government-funded jobs competently. San Francisco has not had that for years and the mentally ill people living in wretchedness on the streets are the evidence of it.
posted by Nelson at 10:16 AM on September 3, 2019 [8 favorites]

I watched a neighbor have a crisis in the middle of the street the other night. Literally, as in throwing herself on the hood of a car while screaming and then lying down on a busy street. I was struck by how many people passing by stopped to try to help, to immediately block traffic to keep this from being a much worse situation, to call for an ambulance. I live in an area where this isn't an uncommon sight; sometimes someone's hurting themselves with a newspaper rack and sometimes someone is lying shirtless covering themselves in the dirt surrounding a tree. So seeing this article the next day really made me furious.

It's not right to let people live like this. We have a huge lack of treatment services, rely on the jail to try to treat mental health conditions, and it's utterly infuriating that we've had 45 empty beds all along, in a city-run facility the state keeps citing.

Also, last week in Joe Eskenazi's coverage of SF General's mental health failures: ‘Vertical treatment’ program, in which SFGH psych patients were restricted from lying down, is scrapped, in which the doctor responsible for not letting patients recline their chairs in the hope they'd move along more quickly has been promoted by the Mayor to run mental health reform for the whole city.
posted by zachlipton at 11:19 AM on September 3, 2019 [8 favorites]

Holy fuck, zachlipton. Was unaware I could be even more appalled about SF’s mental health situation and yet here I am. Yikes. Thanks for the links.
posted by Bella Donna at 11:33 AM on September 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

Supervisors spar over solutions to SF General’s mental health bed fiasco
Members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday condemned the Department of Public Health’s decision to repurpose 41 permanent mental health beds at San Francisco General Hospital into temporary beds for the city’s mentally ill homeless population.

“Make no mistake, this decision will lead to more people with mental illness being diverted back onto our streets,” said Supervisor Hillary Ronen in a pointed speech. “There is no way around that.”

Ronen and Supervisor Matt Haney jointly called for a hearing on how that decision came to pass. Moreover, they raised questions about how it was that the Adult Residential Facility, which offers permanent housing and care to people suffering from severe mental illness, kept beds empty in the midst of San Francisco’s deepening mental health crisis.
posted by Lexica at 11:19 AM on September 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

At a quick glance, I thought the headline meant "Science Fiction lies about unfilled beds for mentally ill."

Utter confusion, followed by sadness.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 1:34 PM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

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