How can we address drug addicted and mentally ill people on the streets?

 I recently helped create a new partnership between the Providence Tarzana Hospital and the Tarzana Treatment Center. This partnership, established late-2018, helps connect homeless individuals admitted to the emergency room (ER) with housing and services. Due to the initial success, this program has already expanded to two other Providence Hospitals – Burbank and Santa Monica. These are also some of the hardest to reach folks in our community, as they are often resistant to services. The new program involves trained patient navigators working in the ER and special group housing where they can heal both physically and mentally from addiction or other mental ailments.

The goal is to connect 135 homeless individuals, who enter the ER at the Providence Hospitals with needed services. The services provided vary depending on the need of the homeless individual. The program emphasizes substance abuse recovery treatment, transitional housing, primary care services, and other means to provide stability and a path to recovery for homeless people. The early metrics indicate a very successful program; the majority of patients accept some form the program’s services. Those who do not accept the program’s services often take advantage of other services such as mental health referrals and emergency shelter.

Of the 348 patients screened for the entire program so far, 139 patients enrolled in the navigation and benefits enrollment program, 20 patients started the substance use disorder treatment program, 16 patients completed the residential treatment program. A further 86 patients were linked to mental health services. 79 patients obtained emergency housing. Also, 102 patients received referrals for primary care and supportive services.

For the Tarzana-based program 63 of 141 patients screened enrolled as a participant. 13 patients completed residential treatment. 35 more patients were linked to mental health services. 27 obtained emergency housing. And 23 patients received referrals for primary care and supportive services.

In 2018, the State Legislature passed SB 1045. That bill allows the County of Los Angeles to establish a one-year conservatorship for a person who is chronically homeless and incapable of caring for his or her own health and well-being due to serious mental illness and substance use disorder. This bill was supported by the LA City Council unanimously in March of 2018. Health programs, drug and alcohol programs, mental health programs, and social services are administered by the County or State and are not directly funded or administered by the City.