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Reducing Racial Disparities in Drug Overdose Deaths through Prevention, Engagement, and Education

Black/African American Community-Based Substance Use Prevention and Education Initiative (the Community-Based Initiative)

About the Initiative

In 2024, Homeless Children’s Network (HCN) with the support of the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) is launching the Black/African American Community-Based Substance Use Prevention and Education Initiative (the Community-Based Initiative) a shared effort in reducing racial disparities in drug overdose deaths through prevention, engagement and education. This initiative is designed to build capacity in Black-led, Black-serving community-based organizations (CBOs) and Black systems of care (interconnected, interdependent, relational referral and resource networks under the direction of Black affirming leaders). Organizations and systems of care engage the priority populations to take steps towards reducing and preventing substance use and fatal overdoses among Black/African American individuals in San Francisco. 



Black/African Americans in San Francisco experience fatal overdoses at 5-times the city-wide rate.

We need culturally congruent programs that mitigate the harm to the individual, the family and the community.


The Homeless Children’s Network’s expertise in meeting the behavioral health needs of families will be vital to our efforts to reverse the disparities of overdose deaths in our city.

Dr. Hillary Kunins

Director of Behavioral Health Services and Mental Health SF


Our 3 Programs


Initiative programs are interwoven with HCN’s current Afri-centric programs and enhanced by collaborations with intersecting networks of community-based, Black-led movements, service providers, and public officials. The Community-based Initiative engages Black/African American residents in San Francisco who are at risk of substance use disorders or fatal overdoses with a focus on individuals with one or more of the following life experiences, their families, and communities: Parenting children, those experiencing housing insecurity, being LGBTQIA+, carceral system involvement.

We are wounded
in community





in community

HCN views the Initiative and its programs as an important and significant first step toward mobilizing the resources needed to effectively serve those most vulnerable to systemic racism in this public health emergency. It will contribute to laying the necessary groundwork for developing a comprehensive strategic plan with actionable steps to remedy the inequitable outcomes of the concurrent, intertwined fentanyl and mental health crises in the Black/African American community and to remedy the deeply rooted systemic failures that give them the falseappearance of inevitability. While cognizant of the many interwoven systems and activities presently underway, developing effective, sustainable collaborations centering the Black voice is a long-term undertaking requiring adequate funding, as well as time, intention, and coordination.

Our Partners

HCN and its partners in the Initiative address the wide racial disparity in fentanyl use and overdose deaths in San Francisco with community-generated solutions. HCN’s Chief Executive Officer Dr. April Y. Silas is a leading public voice in this movement which centers community-based, Black/African American strategies and leadership in responding to this public health emergency.

Chief Executive Officer of Homeless Children's Network

"No single organization or individual can make a meaningful impact on this crisis without a multi-year, robustly funded investment in a citywide community driven collaboration.


There is a generational impact of substance use disorder and overdoses. For every one adult we lose, many people, including children, are impacted."


—  April Y. Silas


Funding for this program comes from DPH in conjunction with opioid settlement funds and state Mental Health Services Act funds. This community partnership funding aligns with the SFDPH goal to reduce racial disparities in fatal overdose among Black/African Americans.

Additional investments from private philanthropy are needed to expand overdose prevention services, including increased capacity for treatment navigation with focused expertise on the unique cultural needs of the Black/African American community.

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