Black San Franciscans’ overdose death rate is five times above the citywide rate

Wealth-and-Disparities-in-the-Black-Community-1, Black San Franciscans’ overdose death rate is five times above the citywide rate, News & Views Public Notices

Attend the Community Strategic Planning Meeting at San Francisco City Hall, Mayor’s Conference Room 201, May 23, 10 a.m-12 p.m.

On May 23, 2023, San Francisco Black community leadership will be coming to the table to address the fentanyl crisis and its disproportionate impact on Black San Franciscans. Phelicia Jones, MCP, founder of Wealth and Disparities in the Black Community (WDBC), said in a press conference at City Hall earlier this month: We want San Francisco to care about [B]lack people in San Francisco. We are at the bottom of every[thing] in the City and County of San Francisco: healthcare, education, mass incarceration, housing, employment … We must be at the table.”

According to the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH), Black San Franciscans have an overdose death rate that is five times above the citywide rate. In San Francisco, the deadly fentanyl crisis is playing out in a distinctly anti-Black racist pattern that is all too familiar. Drug use and homelessness are related tragedies. Black people are under 6% of the total City population, yet make up over 40% of the city’s homeless. The “war on drugs” was first coined in 1971 and yet Black people remain in crisis related to drug use. Dr. Jeffery Hom of SFPDH reports: 

∙ Black San Franciscans were 28.4% of all overdose deaths in 2021 (182 out of 640); 

∙ Black San Franciscans were 27.8% of overdose deaths in 2022 (180 out of 647); 

∙ Black San Franciscans were 30% of all overdose deaths in the first four months of 2023 (80 out of 268). 

If the crisis continues at the present rate, there will be 804 deaths in 2023 alone, of which 241 are Black. We are in a state of emergency. With this crisis affecting Black San Franciscans so disproportionately to their rate in the population, it is critical that Black San Franciscans be involved in solutions to the fentanyl epidemic in the city. 

Drug use in San Francisco has skyrocketed, from between 100-200 deaths annually prior to 2019 to over 600 annually in 2021 and 2022.  San Francisco holds the sad distinction of more residents dying of fentanyl than from COVID during the height of the pandemic.

Per the San Francisco Chronicle, “[in 2021 -2022] overdose [deaths were] almost twice the [rate of deaths from] COVID-19 … A disproportionate number of the victims are older Black men.”  “Black San Franciscans are far more likely to die of an [OD] than people of other racial groups.” 

San Francisco must address fentanyl as a public health emergency. 

“For nearly a decade, Wealth and Disparities in the Black Community has been a fearless voice for racial justice, and I’m grateful for its leadership on a drug overdose crisis that’s putting Black San Franciscans at increasingly disproportionate risk for deadly overdoses,” said City Supervisor Dorsey. “I’m incredibly thankful to Phelicia Jones and everyone at the organization she founded for their leadership. I’m committed to being a full partner with Phelicia and WDBC to help reverse the fentanyl-driven crisis facing our City, to end racial disparities in public health outcomes and to save lives.” 

We do not need to further criminalize and penalize Black San Franciscans, particularly those struggling with joblessness, homelessness, hunger and drug addiction. We DO need a comprehensive plan to treat this as the disease that it is. We need the drug Narcan disseminated urgently and regularly to every high fentanyl use area. We need more help for the poor, the unhoused, the unemployed, and the mentally and physically ill. Every San Franciscan and every city official, including the Board of Supervisors, should consider this a top priority. 

To reach Wealth and Disparities in the Black Community, Phelicia Jones, founder, at