Dozens of conservatorship beds will be added starting this month to the dozens already available in San Francisco to help the seriously mentally ill, the mayor and the city's health director announced Monday.
Starting March 12, 54 new locked psychiatric beds will be available at what's being called the San Francisco Healing Center at St. Mary's Medical Center, in addition to the 47 already available at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.
The beds will be used to help the seriously mentally ill who are placed in conservatorship and are too ill to live on their own but do not require acute hospital care.
The patients who would be helped are gravely disabled because of a mental illness or they are incompetent to stand trial.
"The mental health problems on our streets are one of the biggest issues facing San Francisco," Mayor Mark Farrell said in a statement.
Farrell said by more than doubling the number of beds, city officials will provide "real results" for the people who are ill, as well as local residents and businesses.
Currently, patients have to wait for placement in out-of-county facilities, acute care hospitals or jails.
City officials said placing patients in out-of-county facilities puts a burden on their families.
Crestwood Behavioral Health will run the program. The city is funding the program and is responsible for the placements and care of the patients.
The San Francisco Healing Center will cost $5 million a year to operate 40 beds. Fourteen beds are available for other providers to purchase for their clients, according to city officials.
The non-profit hospital system Dignity Health contributed money toward the cost of space and renovations at St. Mary's.
The University of California at San Francisco contributed $1 million to the cost of renovations and programming.
Conservatorship is a form of civil commitment by a judge after finding that the person is gravely disabled due to a serious mental illness and cannot take care of his or her basic needs.
City officials said serious mental illnesses are treatable and people who receive treatment and manage their illness can recover. Jail is not conducive to a person's recovery and when patients remain in the hospital, psychiatric emergency services back up.
Board of Supervisors president London Breed said in a statement about today's announcement, "These additional beds are critical to providing a pathway to help us get individuals who are conserved healthy, stabilized and housed for the long-term."
Breed said she has introduced legislation to decriminalize mental health conservatorship by making the city attorney and not the district attorney responsible for the cases.
Breed will be introducing legislation establishing a pilot program focused on identifying and coordinating services for the highest-risk individuals suffering from severe mental illness, substance abuse and chronic homelessness.