County strategizes to aid homeless people with mental illnesses


To better serve Los Angeles County’s homeless population with mental illnesses, the Department of Mental Health reported back to the Board of Supervisors with a game plan.

In April, Supervisor Kathryn Barger directed the department to take six months to think of ways to help those with disabilities who are unable or unwilling to accept help. The department came back with recommendations on Tuesday.

“I strongly believe that if someone’s mental disorder prevents them from providing for their own basic needs then they are in fact, ‘gravely disabled’ and in need of treatment and care,” Barger said in a statement.

Of the 57,794 homeless people reported in the 2017 count by the Los Angeles County Homeless Services Authority, 15,728 were reported to have a “serious mental illness.”

“The county has a moral obligation to ensure that those who are suffering from grave mental illness, who are living in deplorable conditions and unable to provide for their own basic human needs, receive the treatment and care that would drastically improve their quality of life,” Barger said.

During the Tuesday meeting, the department presented their findings from discussions with county and community stakeholders and presented 13 recommendations to the board.

“Each recommendation focuses on the engagement, care and sustainability of care for those in need of involuntary mental health treatment services without infringing upon the civil liberties of those individuals,” the Department of Mental Health said in their report.

Among the recommendations, the DMH called for Psychiatric Mobile Response Teams to be expanded. Also, the department recommended new partnership models to be developed, licensed facilities to increase their capacities and court-ordered evaluation and treatment to be explored.

Additionally, department said first responders and clinicians should be consistently trained to aid these individuals.

The department also recommended evaluating the feasibility of using “street doctors” to provide involuntary medical treatment to help those who are unable to help themselves.

The definition of “gravely disabled” should include a person’s inability to care for their own physical health, the department recommended. The board ought to support legislation that defines this, the DMH said.

If a homeless individual is unable to consent to care because their disability is so severe it renders them helpless, Barger believes it is the county’s duty to provide their basic needs, her Communications Deputy Tony Bell said.

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