Published : Tuesday, September 10, 2019 | 5:17 PM
The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion by Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Mark Ridley-Thomas directing the Department of Mental Health to work with County Counsel and other departments to explore the county’s ability to provide treatment to homeless individuals with a serious mental illness.
“Los Angeles County is facing a deepening and dynamic homelessness crisis that endangers the health and well-being of many of its residents,” Supervisor Kathryn Barger said. “One of the most difficult challenges we face in combatting homelessness is assisting those on our streets living with a serious mental illness. We must exhaust every option to provide life-saving treatment to this vulnerable population.”
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 30 percent of those experiencing chronic homelessness in the United States have a mental illness. Data compiled by the Stanford Justice Advocacy Project from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation shows that more than 30 percent of California’s prisoners currently receive treatment for a serious mental disorder, which is an increase of 150 percent since 2000. The intersection of mental illness, homelessness, and criminal justice is indicative of systemic inequities that have gone unaddressed for decades.
“The County of Los Angeles has a responsibility to take all necessary and appropriate actions to facilitate humane medical and behavioral health interventions to halt the passive decay and neglect of our most vulnerable residents who are suffering from severe and untreated mental illness on our streets,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “With the Coroner reporting that two to three people are dying on our streets every day, there is an urgency to this matter. The motion put forward by Supervisor Barger and myself will ensure that the County Health Departments are equipped to employ client-centered and evidence-based practices to improve the lives of our underserved brothers and sisters.”
The motion directs the heads of the Departments of Mental Health, Public Health, and Health Services, in coordination with County Counsel and the Chief Executive Officer, to explore their authority to address treatment intervention for those who are chronically homeless and experiencing severe and untreated mental health issues. The initiative also directs the Medical Examiner-Coroner to track the number of deaths and causes of death involving homeless individuals, specifically those with serious mental illness and/or addiction. The departments will report back in 60 days with an assessment of state laws and case law pertaining to conservatorship hearings.