SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – Overdose deaths are on the rise in San Francisco. In fact, the city is setting new records. 

Public health officials say fentanyl is mostly to blame, and while it’s an uphill battle, they are still hoping an expansion of existing programs and treatments will bring those numbers down.

At a news conference Tuesday, San Francisco Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax announced 71 people died of drug overdoses in July alone, bringing the total number of overdose deaths for the first seven months of the year to 473.

“It pains me to share that this is the highest overdose deaths San Francisco has experienced,” he said. “And it correlates with this overtake of fentanyl into our drug supply.”

City officials say 80% of those overdose deaths are the result of fentanyl, which they say has become cheaper, more potent and more available.

“We are flooding areas with Naloxone,” Colfax said. “Life-saving Naloxone, expanding access to treatment, and working with community partners to better understand the various impacts fentanyl is having. But most important, we are working hard to try and get people on the path to recovery.”

City officials say legal hurdles at the state and federal levels make safe consumption sites unlikely, and those wellness hubs that have been budgeted will also not happen anytime soon.  But public health officials remain optimistic that expanding outreach and treatment through existing neighborhood and mobile clinics can make a significant difference. 

“It is possible to turn this around and we are all in public health,” said Dr. Hillary Kunins, San Francisco’s director of behavioral health services. “Doing this with that sense of hope and possibility despite these very dire numbers today.”

At this time, the city is treating 25,000 people for substance abuse or mental health-related issues.