S.F. Department of Public Health Director Barbara Garcia Steps Down

Garcia's two decades leading the department left an indelible mark on San Francisco's public health, from the battle for safe consumption sites to compassionate care for people living on city streets.

Barbara Garcia, Director of San Francisco’s Public Health Department and a strong advocate for harm reduction efforts and the health of the city’s unhoused populations, stepped down this week. The news was first broken by our sister publication the Examiner, who state that Greg Wagner, the chief financial officer for the department, will step into the role of acting director until the Health Commission selects someone new. 

Garcia was appointed to the role by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2010. She had served as deputy director of the department since 1999. 

“I have had the great privilege of leading, along with all of you, the best Health Department in the country,” Garcia apparently wrote in her resignation letter to the department. “Together, with our Health Commission, we have worked to protect and to promote the health of all people in San Francisco. As you know, there is still so much work to do, especially in our communities of color. I am confident of your commitment to continue to raise the health status of all people in San Francisco.”

In just the past year Garcia has supported the controversial effort for safe consumption sites, the preservation of board and care facilities, efforts to keep city streets free of used needles, saving an old HIV hospice program, and funding the distribution of Narcan, an opioid reversal drug.

“Barbara has been a tremendous champion for those struggling with substance use disorders and mental health issues,” says Dr. Vitka Eisen, CEO of HealthRIGHT 360. She was an instrumental partner for HealthRIGHT 360 when we opened our Integrated Care Center in San Francisco, and has been a forerunner in transforming the way healthcare is delivered in this ever-changing landscape.”

“I am extremely grateful for Director Garcia’s service to San Francisco and her steadfast support for evidence-based public health,” SF AIDS Foundation CEO Joe Hollendoner tells SF Weekly. “Under her leadership, San Francisco made historic strides responding to the HIV epidemic. While the need for further progress exists, we would not be where we are without Barbara’s contributions. She will be missed and we are committed to continuing our work with Mayor Breed and the Department of Public Health to carry forward Barbara’s vision of making San Francisco the healthiest city in the world.”

Wagner was selected as CFO for the Health Department — which manages a budget of well over $1 billion and thousands of employees — in 2011. Prior to that, he spent five years in the Mayor’s Office of Public Policy and Finance.  

This is a breaking news story. Stay tuned for updates.


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