Articles, NOPNA, Politics

SF’s Other Epidemic

In 2020, 235 San Franciscans tragically died due to COVID-19. In the same time period, SF saw nearly three times as many deaths (699) from accidental drug overdoses. Policies such as social distancing, which have saved so many lives by ebbing the spread of COVID-19, may have contributed to social isolation and reduced the likelihood of people being revived from an overdose. 

Though these crises may feel disconnected, the solutions to both should be viewed as complementary, rather than competing, public health priorities. As a society we’ve proven our ability to mobilize relatively effective measures to control/reduce Covid-19 deaths; we need to use the same level of urgency and public health investment to combat the Opioid Epidemic and its growing fatalities.  

Approximately 500 (or two-thirds) of the overdose deaths in San Francisco in 2020 were caused by Fentanyl. Fentanyl, an increasing cause of overdose deaths throughout the US, is roughly 25-50 times stronger than heroin and is often mixed into heroin bags or other pills – catching even experienced drug users by surprise. Due to its low price and decentralized sources, Fentanyl has proven difficult to target using traditional criminal enforcement mechanisms. Rather than address these failures exclusively through enforcement reform, it’s critical to adopt a more holistic approach centered on health and emphasizing proven solutions over social stigma.

So what would a public health approach to preventing drug deaths look like? The CDC and organizations like the Drug Policy Alliance advocate a number of approaches including:

  • readily available testing kits (to identify Fentanyl)
  • data and emerging technologies – from tracking safe drugs supplies, to monitoring over-prescription and guiding decision-making for physicians
  • treatments such as Methadone and/or buprenorphine to address addiction at the point of care
  • access to Naloxone (aka Narcan) which treats narcotic overdose in an emergency situation

In 2020 alone, trained community members (including users and family members) in SF were able to reverse at least 2,600 overdoses with Narcan. The question is not whether these policies are effective, it is how can we make them more readily available?

One obvious answer is to incorporate these services into other health facilities such as emergency rooms or Navigation Centers and to create dedicated locations such as needle exchanges or even better, safe injection sites to test, treat, and trace. Safe injection sites like those in Europe and Canada, which have been proposed by SF elected officials like Senator Scott Weiner and Mayor Breed (whose sister died of an overdose), have been shown to prevent overdose deaths, reduce the spread of diseases like hepatitis C and HIV, and help get users into treatment.

While maintaining the same urgency and coordination we’ve used to prevent COVID-19 deaths, we need to shift from an overly-criminalized focus on enforcement and supply reduction to one characterized by regulation and harm reduction. These solutions require both public backing and investment – a meaningful first step is to support progressive legislation (proposed by SF’s own Scott Weiner) which can make meaningful change.


  • SF Chronicle, “2020 was S.F.’s deadliest year for overdoses, by far.” Link
  • SFIST, “SF Saw Triple the Number of Overdose Deaths Than COVID-19 Deaths in 2020.” Link
  • NPR, “’We Are Shipping To The U.S.’: Inside China’s Online Synthetic Drug Networks.” Link
  • CDC, “Evidence-Based Strategies for Preventing Opioid Overdose: What’s Working in the United States.” Link
  • Homeland Preparedness News, “San Francisco Police Department cites Naloxone success in reducing opioid overdoses.” Link
  • Drug Policy Aliance, “Key Harm Reduction Issues.” Link
  • Deloitte, “Strategies for stemming the opioid epidemic.” Link
Articles, NOPNA

Safety – By the Numbers

(This article appeared appeared in NOPNA’s June / July Edition which can be located here)

On busy nights, Divisidero, Masonic, and other NOPA streets are filled to the brim with tourists, date-goers, bike-commuters, and families. With so many pedestrians and bikers on the road, it’s no surprise that traffic safety is a major concern (only confirmed by the recent VisionZero Survey). However, the traffic data needed to pinpoint major hazards and therefore to give insight into necessary safety solutions has been scarce – until now.

NOPNA recently analyzed traffic data provided by the city dating back to 2005. Although collisions have dropped by 40% from 2012-2015 (around 12% a year), pedestrian and bike collisions remain a major concern – 40% of all collisions in the last 12 years have involved either a pedestrian or bicyclist.

Of the 74 collisions involving pedestrians, most occurred in a crosswalk with 70% of those caused by a failure by the driver to yield right of way to the pedestrian. Predictably, the most common intersections for these collisions were popular pedestrian areas – Divisidero between Fell and Turk or Masonic between Fell and Hayes. For bikers, most collisions occurred at stoplights with Masonic and Fell Streets as the most common locations.

Though reminders to look both ways before crossing may seem tired, vigilance remains the most important deterrent of traffic collisions. As our neighborhood continues to grow in popularity, and the number of bikers and pedestrians rise, NOPNA will continue to look at additional safety improvements to slow traffic, protect intersections, and deter other forms of unsafe driving.

Source: City of San Francisco, Traffic Data, 2005-2015



Articles, College

The Case for ASCMC Senate Committees

(This post appeared in the CMC Forum on February 24, 2014)

Last night’s debate in Executive Board about student fees raised numerous questions regarding the way in which ASCMC is run. The clearest issue was that conversations on issues such as tuition increases are surprisingly absent in ASCMC, especially in Senate. While Senate is great medium for students voices to be heard, there is a noticeable lack of meaningful discourse and decision-making. I do not fault anyone within Senate for this issue, nor are the previous Vice Presidents to blame. Rather, I think this is due in large part to the lack of responsibility that Senate holds, the lack of opportunities for one to apply his or her specific passions, and a general lack of innovation in the structure of the body. This is a huge loss. Senate needs to be reformed so that we can carry out more substantive debate, better engage campus leaders, and play a larger role in advocating on behalf of the student body.

There need to be Senate Committees that address issues facing our student body. At this time, there are currently only four Senate committees:  Administrative Affairs and Budgetary, Campus Improvement, Technology, and Academic Affairs. Although all are essential, they fall far short of representing the full spectrum of student interests and addressing social issues. Instead, there should be committees in areas students are passionate about and engage club leaders across campus to spearhead them. They can get students from a variety of backgrounds involved in addressing these topics. A few examples of these committees could be: a committee on Sexual Assault Culture, on Wellness, on Community Engagement, and on Diversity. These groups can then create initiatives, plan events, and inform the student body on matters that impact our entire college. This will not only make Senate more engaging and fulfilling, but it will also make our campus better off.

The recent debate over the rising cost of tuition only shows how little we have done to initiate this conversation and to express our deep concern to the Board of Trustees. Senate is uniquely capable of advocating on students’ behalf because it contains such a diversity of members. Two years ago, Senate passed a resolution to pressure the administration to implement gender-neutral housing. This past week, Eric Vos spoke at Senate regarding housing policies that will go into effect next year. This process highlights the potential of Senate to advocate for certain policy changes and for those opinions to be heard. These resolutions can be initiated by Senate committees, or even just individual students who are passionate about timely issues and specific administrative policies. Senate can do a better job of advocating for are: mental health resources, funding for underfunded academic departments, certain DOS policies, greater resources for LGBTQ students, and the aforementioned rising tuition costs. These matters are all extremely important to the student body; Senate is in a great position to not only address them collectively, but also to lobby the administration on the student body’s behalf.

These changes require leadership by members of Senate, members of the Executive Board, and students around CMC who care passionate about social change. If we can create a culture of advocacy and student engagement, we can use the initiative and passion of CMC students to really address campus issues and play a larger part in campus policy. Senate has the potential to accomplish these goals, but it will take structural reform to get there. The result will be a more active Senate along with solutions to the issues we care about most. In turn, ASCMC will cease to exist solely as an event planning organization, and it will emerge as a responsive, representative entity to enact positive social change.

Articles, Study Abroad

In Support of Breaks

A version of this article was featured in my school paper, the CMC Forum:

My girlfriend says that when we go hiking together she can’t stand the number of breaks I take. I seem to speed ahead – leaving everyone else in the dust – only to pause after 15 minutes to take in the view.  Her comment made me reflect.  I realized that far from being some cardiovascular weakness, my pauses are one aspect of what might be described as my life strategy. See, I’m a huge believer in the 5-minute break: the time-out, the breather, whatever. These breaks come in many forms and sizes too: the 5-minutes breaks I take during a hike, the 90 minutes I take to workout every day, the gap year I took after high school, or even the four months I’m currently spending in India. Each of these represents some sort of respite from my regular scheduled life and each is equally crucial to my staying sane, motivated, grounded, and inspired.

The examples I provided pretty obviously fall into two categories: I’ll call them macro-breaks and micro-breaks for the purpose of this article. Macro-breaks are intense, often life altering moments that usual require the physical need to step away- this may come in the form of study abroad, a trip with some friends, or even a decision to totally detach ourselves from our current circumstances. Micro-breaks are breaks in the day- small moments to reflect that only require mental distance[i].

I have taken a few, intensive macro-breaks in my life. These phases, due to their nature, almost always involve reflection. For me a lot of this reflection has come afterwards as I come to understand the true impact they have had on my life. My first macro-break as an independent-thinking, somewhat-conscious young-adult was a 10-day Vision Quest my Senior year (of HS). I spent three days alone without any food and nothing to do but write. This experience was really my first introduction to the power of reflection. In many ways it also influenced one of the most important decisions I ever made: to take a year off from formal schooling. I actually made this decision while attending CMC’s newly admitted student day. Although I couldn’t have been more excited about starting college (especially at CMC,) I wasn’t sure I was totally ready-so I called timeout. My year off turned out to be awesome for me. I definitely needed the respite from structured education; I had some extraordinary growth experiences and it definitely helped me have a better understanding of what I wanted to do in college. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to have an experience like it again but it reinforced the importance of stepping away to challenge myself in new ways.

The most recent macro-break I’ve embarked on is the one I’m currently experiencing. I underestimated this before I left, but leaving CMC right in the middle of my time there was enormous. I feel so connected with the CMC community that dropping everything and taking off for a foreign land was initially wrenching, and I seriously questioned whether it was the right decision. However, the break from normal classes, from the activities that I love, even from the people I love, has given me a great perspective on what I value and appreciate about them, as well as on what I want to change when I come back.

Perhaps one of the most important things I have learned during my current macro-break is the true importance of micro-breaks. My time here has contained innumerable incredible experiences; a quick scroll through my blog or Facebook album will reinforce this reality. But the days have also been immensely challenging.  I’ve learned to be honest with myself about how exhausting the experience is every day. Without forcing myself to head away from my group to sit by myself, or hit the gym for a workout, it can be hard to maintain the energy and focus I need to really absorb what’s going on around me.

Micro-breaks, although shorter and usually less intensive than macro-breaks, are just as important to me. Finding these little breaks throughout the day to reflect, to check-in with myself, or just escape the craziness of my day are crucial to my ability to stay focused. Sports have historically represented this in my life, although with the glory days of high school over, I’ve turned to working out. It sounds stupid to some but working out for me is exactly the kind of break in my day that I’m talking about. Plugging in my headphones, following a routine, literally picking heavy things up and putting them back down, is incredibly, well, meditative for me.

Similarly, I’ve also found a lot of value in daily mediation. Last semester I really picked up my meditation game by spending 10 minutes every morning before my roommate woke up, sitting on my bed with my headphones listening to a mindfulness podcast. I’ve tried to find these moments spontaneously as well: through small trips to the village or the occasional long bike ride. Each break takes some time away from schoolwork but I’ve found that they more than make up for it by helping my focus and productivity.

Our constant responsibilities often lead us to believe that either we don’t have time, or we’re being lazy and selfish when we find the time to take a break. And this isn’t to say that breaks are always a good decision- the intent in taking a break should be to enhance the experience we are currently having, not to detract from it. In order to really connect with things on a deeper level, or to enjoy some of the most important moments in life, we need to be present- and sometimes a break can help with that. It’s also clear that most people don’t need to take as drastic measures as I do. A break for you may mean catching some waves early on a Friday morning, a bike ride to the village, or an ice-cold beer on a weekday. Maybe it’s volleyball practice, or Shades practice, or some time on top of Kravis reading an un-assigned novel. Maybe it’s a trip to Mount Baldy, or even a semester off.

Whatever your choice, getting the full benefit requires one key thing – mindfulness. Being aware of the pause we’re granting ourselves is crucial to fully enjoying and benefiting from it. Being purposeful, instead of hasty, gracious instead of guilty about the breaks in our day only make the more stressful times that much more focused and meaningful. We all deserve a break or two, it’s too sunny outside and we’re too young for that not to be true. Maybe we all don’t have to run off to India and grow out our hair, but I think these breaks are a crucial element to staying sane in College.

Over and out from India!

[i] I think it’s important to note that I have been extremely fortunate to have these moments in my life. I understand that it is an incredibly privileged aspect of my life.