SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – In San Francisco, a hearing was held on Thursday to identify any problems the county is facing when providing mental health services. However, the meeting left one board supervisor with more questions than answers.

San Francisco District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman called for a hearing to gauge the city’s response to people in need of psychiatric help. Representatives from the Department of Public Health, the hospital council, and the fire and police departments who all provide these services at various capacities explained the work they are doing and the challenges at hand.

Lieutenant Mario Molina said SFPD got about 47,000 related calls in 2021, but officers keep seeing the same people back on the streets after being taken to the hospital. Heather Bollinger, with the union representing medical workers at the city’s only psychiatric ward – San Francisco General Hospital – says they are having trouble keeping up and linking patients to services.

While human resources for DPH insist they only have two job openings unfilled for RN’s, Bollinger says that doesn’t reflect reality. She read a list of recent ongoing complaints from SEIU 1021 members who say they are short-staffed, overworked, and don’t have enough beds or security. 

As a result, patients run away or get violent with staff and other patients. In 2014, a woman was attacked by a person with a mental health problem after they ran into her room.

“We have to figure out a way to break this cycle if we’re going to get experienced staff into our department that are willing to stay,” Bollinger said.

Mandelman admits that while fairly new initiatives like street crisis response teams and a new sobering center have helped divert patients away from SF General, the system is still falling short.

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“I just did not come away from that hearing with confidence that we are measuring across our different systems, criminal justice, public health, that we’re measuring what’s actually happening out in the world,” he said.

Mandelman wants to see better-coordinated data collection and communication between all agencies involved. Plus, he wants a new long-term care facility to offload the burden from SF general and reduce the number of patients who keep coming back for the same problems. He is asking for another hearing in the fall.