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SFHSA workers picket over short staffing, say Prop. F drug screening law hard to implement

SFHSA workers say new drug screening law will be hard to implement due to staffing
SFHSA workers say new drug screening law will be hard to implement due to staffing 03:11

SAN FRANCISCO – Workers with San Francisco's Human Services Agency are demanding change. Their union, SEIU 1021, say the agency is so short staffed, it's making it difficult for them to do their jobs. They say challenges will become even greater if they have to implement a new drug screening law.

On Wednesday, more than a hundred workers rallied for better working conditions, including Alejandra Calveron.

"They keep moving me from department to department to help different areas of need because we don't have enough staff," Calveron regarding the current issues. "All of us feel like we're doing the jobs of two to three different people, and that's just not fair."

Calveron is a child welfare worker. She says the staffing issues are impacting their ability to serve those experiencing hunger and homelessness.

When fully staffed, she says the department would approve food stamp requests in 24-48 hours, now it could take months.

"That's just not fair to the families," Calveron said. "When a family needs food they need food now, they can't wait three months."

Calveron believes Prop F, which was approved by voters in the March primary, could end up putting more strain on an already tapped out system.

Starting January 1, 2025, the new law would require HSA to screen applicants for the County Adult Assistance Program for drug use. If they test positive, the law would require the applicant to get treatment in order to receive assistance.

"The city didn't tell us about this, they didn't consult with us, they didn't plan with us," Calveron said. "We're not trained, we're not substance abuse counselors."

Calveron is worried the screening may end up falling on current staff.

"These are adults, some of these adults are not ready for substance abuse treatment" Calveron said, expressing concern. "They're putting us in the middle of that. We're worried about our own safety."

In a statement the San Francisco Human Services Agency says: "The initiative is part of Mayor Breed's commitment to prioritizing treatment, offering support to people with substance use disorder in crisis, and holding them accountable when they refuse help. Implementation of this initiative will be complex and will require extensive planning and program development both within the Human Services Agency and in conjunction with the Department of Public Health and non-profit treatment providers. At this time, SFHSA intends to contract out the drug screening assessments to licensed clinicians and mental health workers.

Within SFHSA's County Adult Assistance Programs, there is currently a 6% staff vacancy rate, which is in line with expected staff attrition rates."

SEIU 1021, filed an unfair practice charge with the California Public Employment Relations Board on March 7 over the implications of Prop F.

The city workers' current bargaining agreement expires on June 30th. Workers say they hope to reach a new agreement by then, if they don't they are prepared to strike. 

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