San Francisco mayor wants to bring treatment to heroin addicts

Mayor Mark Farrell’s call for a new 10-member team to fan out across San Francisco offering an instant cure for heroin addiction is the latest attempt to deal with the growing problem of people openly shooting drugs. It’s also expensive. The two-year plan includes $370,310 a year for the team’s doctors, $251,344 annually for nurses, $157,185 a year for psychiatric social workers, a full-time health co-coordinator at $89,579, three health workers at $69,000 each, plus a full-time pharmacist at $186,710. Add in $508,322 for benefits, and it works out to a total of $1.8 million a year for just staff. The total cost is estimated at $6 million for two years.

The goal is to get 250 of the city’s estimated 11,000 heroin addicts off the streets and into treatment. That costs about $24,000 per addict — or about $10,000 more than tuition and fees to attend the University of California for one year. Health department spokeswoman Rachael Kagan, however, said it’s “not correct” to equate the total funding with a per-patient cost for buprenorphine treatment alone, as the street team will be “expanding to provide a wide variety of services over time.”

The mayor wants to fund a team who will go out and distribute the medication to at least 250 more street addicts during a two-year period. Each person would be given a one-week pack of daily doses. Ruffino says it works almost immediately and no one wants to stay an addict forever. "There is no high involved with it, you are just normal. It takes away all of your cravings and all of your desires," he said.

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