Overdoses are driving a 56% increase in homeless deaths in Los Angeles County - New Style Motorsport

Homeless deaths in Los Angeles County soared 56% in the year after the pandemic began, driven primarily by a rise in overdoses, according to a study released this month.

Between April 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021, 1,988 homeless deaths were reported, up from 1,271 in the 12 months before the pandemic, according to the Department of Public Health study.

The numbers in Los Angeles County mirror the numbers recorded in San Francisco over a similar time period; between March 2020 and March 2021, 331 homeless people died in the city, more than double the number reported in any previous year, according to a study co-authored by scientists from UC San Francisco, the San Francisco Department of Public Health and New York University.

The Los Angeles County report, unlike in previous years, does not provide a homeless death rate due to restrictions placed on the annual homeless count.

“The findings of this report reflect a true state of emergency on the streets of our county,” First District Supervisor Hilda L. Solis said in a statement. “In a civil society, it is unacceptable that any of us are not deeply disturbed by the shocking needs documented in this year’s homeless mortality report.”

In the year under review, 179 homeless people died from COVID-19, representing about a quarter of the overall increase in deaths from the previous year.

Still, an increase in fatal overdoses was the main driver of the increase. In the year before the pandemic, the Department of Public Health reported just over 400 overdose deaths. In the year after the outbreak, that number nearly doubled, to 715.

For some homeless advocates, the results are disturbing but not unexpected.

“The increases in overdoses are not surprising; we’ve seen it anecdotally,” said Homeless Healthcare Los Angeles Medical Director Dr. Susan Partovi. “We are trying to give everyone Narcan [an overdose-reversing nasal spray] as much as possible.”

The pandemic likely exacerbated an already growing overdose problem, fueled primarily by the prevalence of fentanyl, by making it harder for the homeless to access care.

It’s harder to make an appointment for Suboxone, a medication used to treat opioid addiction, and to access any kind of resource, Partovi said.

Partovi called for the implementation of safe injection sites, like those in New York City, to combat the opioid epidemic. Such sites allow drug use while providing clean needles and other medical treatment, as well as monitoring users for overdoses.

“We need to stop vilifying people who are addicted to drugs,” Partovi said.

Young, Latino and Black homeless people were hit the hardest by the increase in deaths, according to the report.

Overall, deaths increased by more than 105% among people ages 18 to 29, by 69% among Latinos, and by 58% among blacks.

Nearly 200 more black homeless people died in the year after the pandemic began than in the year before, while there were 334 more deaths among Latinos.

Young, Latino, and Black homeless people were also hardest hit by overdose deaths, with increases of more than 112% for 18-29 and 30-49-year-olds, 84% for Latinos, and 74% for People of black race

In addition, homicide deaths increased by almost 50% and traffic injury deaths increased by more than 30%.

The county has tried to address barriers to care during the pandemic and worked to provide services and support to the homeless, including crisis response teams to connect homeless people to coronavirus testing and vaccinations, he said. the director of public health Barbara Ferrer.

An estimated 65% of homeless people in Los Angeles County have received at least one dose of the vaccine, a decent but not ideal percentage, Ferrer said.

The county has made efforts to offer homeless residents places where they can quarantine or isolate themselves, Ferrer said, and Project Roomkey’s hotel rooms can prevent medically vulnerable people from living in a situation that would create more danger for them due to the COVID-19.

“So I want to give a lot of credit to the county and to all the workers, and we also have a lot of private organizations that help, that have gone to great lengths,” he said. “But I still think that the root of the homelessness problem has led, during the pandemic, to an increase in mortality among the homeless.”

The county plans to expand harm reduction services with a focus on the Latino and Black homeless, increase distribution of naloxone and expand investments in other areas of care.

But the report also notes that homeless deaths have been trending upward for years, unhelped by a pandemic.

“This recent increase, while remarkably large, is consistent with a longer-term trend…since 2014,” the report said.

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