LOS ANGELES, CA- This week the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved $450,000 to help continue and grow an innovative drug treatment program created last year by Councilmember Blumenfield, Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center and Tarzana Treatment Center (TTC). In response to the growing number of ER cases involving homeless people struggling with drug addiction, Blumenfield developed the Homeless Housing and Recovery Project (HHRP) with leaders from Providence and TTC so instead of simply treating overdoses and discharging patients, further intervention and treatment are offered.
“Addiction recovery is hard enough for people with housing and means but it’s an unfathomably difficult path for unhoused residents,” said Blumenfield. “The HHRP offers a realistic opportunity to truly help our city’s most vulnerable, providing a substantive chance turn their lives around.”
The HHRP functions by deploying Patient Navigators on site at hospital emergency rooms to enroll recently admitted unhoused people with drug issues into the program. Services offered include being assigned a general practitioner, connection to TTC medical clinics where they continue to receive care after hospital discharge, and in some cases temporary housing through a shared housing model. Since the start of this program, it has also expanded to Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills.
The program reaches unsheltered people in the hospital ER which has proven to be an opportune time to offer services. They are more receptive, perhaps because they have hit a rock bottom or because the medical setting is more conducive to acceptance of help than an outreach effort on the street. The partnership of the medical professionals and streamlined access to a substance abuse program seems to give unsheltered people with substance abuse or mental health disorders a better chance to turn their lives around.
In order to continue and expand this successful program, additional funding was needed before the end of August, as the leases for the housing units are set to expire in September. The total cost of the program is $950,000. Providence and TTC are providing $500,000 in funding and services, but these additional funds were needed. Among other services, this funding will help add an additional house to TTC’s treatment long-term capacity so they will have three homes with almost twenty beds available.
“We thank Council Member Blumenfield for his continuing support of this vital program that addresses two critical and often intertwined crises – homelessness and addiction,” said Dale Surowitz, chief executive, Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center. “Our navigators at both hospitals have been successful in linking these patients to temporary housing, addiction treatment and other resources.”
According to Providence and TCC, during the first 14 months of the program, 697 patients were screened for admission, of which:
363 enrolled in the program
168 have been connected to mental health services
40 started outpatient substance use disorder treatment
191 connected with emergency housing
72 are no longer homeless and are living on their own or with family
Blumenfield stated, “Not everyone is going to accept the help or stick with the program but we have already proven that this program is more successful than most traditional services. It’s our hope that other cities and hospitals pay attention to the success of this program because the lack of drug addiction and mental health services is far too prevalent in practically every corner of the country.”