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  /  News   /  San Francisco city program gives free booze to alcoholics

San Francisco city program gives free booze to alcoholics

(NewsNation) — San Francisco offers a $5 million program for homeless alcoholics to receive free alcohol. The city says its Managed Alcohol Program is in place to help stabilize drinking patterns.

While the program has supporters who say it works, it has received criticism from local leaders.

Reducing severe alcohol use

The San Francisco Department of Public Health described MAP as “interventions that aim to reduce the harms of severe alcohol use, poverty and homelessness.”

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For the past four years, the program has provided temporary housing, medical supervision and shots of alcohol to those seeking help. These are all tools organizers use in the hope they will help stabilize drinking patterns for those with severe addiction.

The goal is to keep them out of jail and out of the emergency room.

Program makes matters worse: Critics

Critics believe the program is just making matters worse and that taxpayer dollars should not go toward funding alcoholics.

Adam Nathan, chair of the Salvation Army San Francisco Metro Advisory Board, posted to X: “Did you know San Francisco spends $2 million a year on a ‘Managed Alcohol Program?’ It provides free alcohol to people struggling with chronic alcoholism who are mostly homeless.”

He criticized the program, asking why “every public health dollar” wasn’t going toward the prevention and treatment of drug overdoses.

“Our Public Health department is keeping people sick as opposed to working toward getting them healthy,” Nathan posted.

Addiction specialist Amara Durham questioned whether giving homeless alcoholics more alcohol is the best approach.

“Where’s the medical supervision for when someone does hit that tipping point and they have been over-served because they happen to come in and get their last drink that takes them over the edge from this facility?” Durham told NewsNation. “I’m unclear as to where the evidence-based research is behind this plan. I also look at this and say, if we were treating these alcoholics as addicts, then we would find a substitute that is non-addictive that would help their brain in a comparable way.”

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The San Francisco Chronicle reported public health officials said the alcohol is dispensed by a nurse, and not just anyone can access the alcohol; only those who are housed and enrolled in the program can receive treatment.

Tom Wolf, recovery advocate director at West Coast Initiatives Foundation for Drug Policy Solutions, told NewsNation the city should put its efforts into promoting recovery, not maintaining people’s addictions.

A similar controversial program in Canada called “Safer Supply” has been in effect for a while with uncertain results. Canada’s program is primarily focused on substance abuse with drugs.

NewsNation reached out to San Francisco’s Department of Public Health for comment but has not yet received a response.