Overdoses, not COVID-19, increase the number of homeless deaths in LA
Overdoses, not COVID-19, increase the number of homeless deaths in LA

Overdoses, not COVID-19, increase the number of homeless deaths in LA

Nearly 2,000 homeless people died in Los Angeles County during the first year of the pandemic, a 56% increase from the year before, mainly driven by drug overdoses, authorities said.

The results released Friday in a report from the county’s Department of Public Health showed that despite initial fears, the virus itself was not the main culprit in deaths among California’s largest uninhabited population in the country. But it cut people off from mental health and substance abuse treatment after services were drastically reduced to prevent the spread of the virus.

Between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021, the county registered 1,988 deaths among the homeless, up from 1,271 deaths in the same period a year earlier, the report said.

In both of these years, drug overdoses were the most common cause of death, but increased by 78% during the first year of the pandemic. In the pre-pandemic year, the Department of Public Health reported 402 fatal overdoses. In the year after the outbreak, the number almost doubled to 715, the report said.

The report showed that 179 homeless people died of COVID-19 during the first year of the pandemic.

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

A study of homeless deaths in San Francisco published last month showed similar results: Between March 2020 and March 2021, 331 homeless deaths were recorded in San Francisco, more than twice as many as in previous years, with the leading cause of death being drug overdose. , according to a study by the University of California San Francisco and the city’s Department of Public Health.

Los Angeles County is home to Skid Row neighborhoodinfamous for poverty and drugs and where LA’s homeless population was once largely incarcerated. Now rows of tents, cardboard shelters, battered motorhomes and makeshift plywood structures are well-known sights throughout the country’s second most populous city.

Cities and states across the country are struggling with growing homelessness as well as mental crises. California has the largest uninhabited population in the country, estimated at 161,000 with nearly a quarter of that number suffering from serious mental illness, according to a number of homeless people by 2020 required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The pandemic likely exacerbated an already growing drug and overdose problem, driven by the presence of fentanyl, authorities said. Methamphetamine was involved in the majority of deaths with 75%, roughly the same as the year before. But the involvement of fentanyl in overdose deaths has almost doubled to 45%, the report said.

“The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on people experiencing homelessness has clearly extended beyond the immediate effects of this new and deadly virus,” said Los Angeles Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. “The pandemic has exacerbated stressors that are already burdening this vulnerable population.”

Young people, Latinos and black people experiencing homelessness were driving the rises in fatal overdoses, the report said.

Coronary heart disease was the second leading cause of death in the first year of the pandemic, accounting for 309 deaths and an increase of almost 30% from the previous year, the report said.


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