For Immediate Release:
October 29, 2019
LOS ANGELES – – Today, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) released a mortality study that provides new and alarming data on deaths among people experiencing homelessness in LA County. Not only have the number of homeless deaths doubled, from 536 in 2013 to 1,047 in 2018, but the death rate, which accounts for increases in the total number of homeless people, increased by over a third during that same period. Drug and alcohol overdose was the largest contributor to the overall increase in the homeless death rate. From 2016 to 2018, the overdose death rate was 26 times higher among the homeless than among the general population. Other leading causes of homeless deaths included heart disease, traffic injuries, homicide and suicide.
"This report is tragic, and reflects a true state of emergency on the streets of our community," said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, lead author of the motion. "It is unconscionable and inhumane for society to continue to turn a blind eye to this plight. That's why we recommended that the Board act with urgency and purpose to direct the Department of Public Health to examine and execute strategies that lead to a rapid reduction in these disturbing numbers."
"Homelessness can have a devastating impact on a person's health and well-being, and we need to better understand the underlying causes that contribute to our County’s high mortality rate among those who are experiencing homelessness," said Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. "Children, single mothers, our friends and neighbors represent the people who are struggling to find a warm, safe bed every night. We cannot abandon them. We must recommit ourselves every day to identify innovative solutions that can help prevent premature deaths among our most vulnerable residents."
"This alarming increase in homeless deaths requires immediate action to improve the care for our most vulnerable populations," said Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of Public Health. "As we work hard to secure housing for those experiencing homelessness, we have a civic and moral obligation to prevent unnecessary suffering and death. We need to start this work by speaking directly with those experiencing homelessness to better understand how to align our support."
The report also found that people experiencing homelessness died on average 22 years earlier than among the general population (average age was 51 among the homeless and 73 among the general population).
Today’s motion directs Public Health to take multiple actions to help prevent future homeless deaths, including:
To view the full report online, visit:http://public health.lacounty.gov/chie.
The Department of Public Health is committed to promoting health equity and ensuring optimal health and well-being for all 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control, and community and family health. Nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health comprises nearly 4,500 employees and has an annual budget of $1.2 billion. To learn more about Los Angeles County Public Health, please visit www.publichea lth.lacounty.gov , and follow LA County Public Health on social media at #####