LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: May 16, 2015 Regarding, “L.A.’s grim homeless data: What can be done?” (5-13-15)
Your “solutions” are red herrings that will have little impact unless we effectively address the primary causes of homelessness: mental illness and substance abuse. In Los Angeles County, we continue to work with community groups, partner agencies and cities to establish mental health and public safety programs that target homelessness, including Psychiatric Emergency Teams. These teams of mental health professionals and law enforcement personnel directly engage homeless individuals over time, offering medical treatment for those who will accept—and trying to engage those that won’t. Sadly, most refuse treatment.
Additional reforms are also needed to streamline court processes, establish realistic standards allowing judges to refer the severely ill to treatment, and allow families to have greater access in the treatment process. Los Angeles County is currently in the process of fully implementing Laura’s Law, a compassionate, cost-effective program that provides court-ordered, intensive mental health treatment to the homeless, many of whom are incapable of consenting to treatment due to the nature of their disease.
Shelters are good, but only if supportive services — including mental health and substance abuse treatment — are mandatory. Housing alone does not end homelessness. In fact, without treatment, the homeless become locked in a broken system of warehousing without healing. Also, those who entered the country illegally add to the increased number of homeless.
We need to work together at the federal, state and local levels, and in public-private partnerships, to provide the care and resources necessary to protect and treat this vulnerable population.
Michael D. Antonovich, Los Angeles
The writer is a Los Angeles County supervisor.