Legislation needed to help mentally ill
By Michael Antonovich
Article Last Updated: 04/03/2007 07:15:49 PM PDT
The solution to the homeless problem in Los Angeles County is not to spread it to other communities but to reduce the number of people who are homeless.
Skid Row, near Los Angeles City's downtown, has the highest concentration of homeless individuals.
The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority census revealed that a majority of the nearly 35,000 chronically homeless in Los Angeles County suffer from mental illness and/or addiction to drugs and alcohol.
To solve the homelessness problem, fundamental reform of our mental health laws must be accomplished including mandatory psychological, alcohol and drug-abuse treatment. However, these necessary reforms continue to be opposed by groups aligned with the American Civil Liberties Union and like-minded legislators.
The solution is not forcing them into neighboring cities and communities, as suggested by the downtown special interests looking to profit on the area's new high property values as evidenced by the ill-advised taxpayer subsidy of the Grand Avenue Project.
While community-based treatment facilities, stabilization centers, family access centers, and transitional housing are valuable temporary tools to treat symptoms of homelessness, they must provide proactive access to medical treatment that addresses mental illness and rehabilitation for alcohol/drug addiction. As we roll out new services throughout the county of Los Angeles, facilities need to be established and operated with the support and participation of the community. Long-term success for shelters and treatment centers depends on cooperative working relationships with local government, business, service organizations, faith-based groups and community volunteers.
An example of a successful public/private partnership is Pasadena's Union Station Foundation. Since 1973, it has provided emergency and transitional housing for individuals and families, hot meals, job development, health care, case management services, and vital mental health care and substance abuse rehabilitation.
The Antelope Valley's Lancaster Homeless Shelter, operated by Catholic Charities, recently added 52 more transitional housing units for adults with the $1 million grant we secured for this project. The proposed St. Joseph's Manor in the Antelope Valley will use county and private contributions to house, support and inspire homeless clients in the Antelope Valley. Penny Lane's new Lancaster center is another superb example of the community working together in a united effort to provide housing and services to emancipated youths at risk of becoming homeless.
We initiated the Los Angeles County Emergency Outreach Call Center and hotline at (800) 854-7771 and launched the Network of Care Web site at www.losangeles.networkofcare.org.
All of these programs and housing projects fall short of our goal of long-term solutions for ending the homeless problem. The long-term solution requires state legislation to reform the dysfunctional mental health laws.
Local experience continues to demonstrate that those suffering from mental illness and/or alcohol or substance abuse require mandatory treatment.
Michael D. Antonovich is a Los Angeles County supervisor. E-mail him at email@example.com