Link: http://scvnews.com/2016/01/08/antonovich-says-homeless-strategy-must-emphasize-mental-health-services/

By Associated Press
January 8, 2016

Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich has again declared that any strategy to address the homelessness problem must emphasize mental health services.

“Mental illness continues to be a major factor contributing to the homelessness problem,” said Antonovich. “Addressing the issue requires strong linkages to treatment opportunities and proactive access to mental health care – especially for those whose illness precludes them from understanding and consenting to treatment.”

Los Angeles County is successfully working with community groups, partner agencies, and our cities to establish mental health and public safety programs that target homelessness, including MTA’s Psychiatric Emergency Team, initiated by Antonovich, which has expanded countywide. These teams of mental health professionals and law enforcement personnel directly engage homeless individuals over time, offering shelter and medical treatment.

Los Angeles County has also fully implemented Laura’s Law -a compassionate, cost-effective program that provides court-ordered, intensive mental health treatment to the homeless, many of whom are incapable of consenting to treatment due to the nature of their disease. It has successfully reintegrated participants back into the community with a 78 percent reduction in incarcerations and a 77 percent reduction in hospitalizations. These reductions significantly improved the lives of program participants and cut costs to the community and taxpayers by 40 percent.

“Housing will have little impact until we effectively address the primary causes of homelessness -mental illness and substance abuse,” he said. “What’s needed is to provide vital treatment for them to heal and reestablish productive lives.”

The Homeless Initiative, recently created by the Board of Supervisors, will provide a coordinated set of strategies which the Board will consider in February. The draft strategies will be discussed at a community meeting on Jan. 13, from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., at the AT&T Theater in the United Way Building, 1150 S. Olive Street, Los Angeles.

To read the draft recommendations or to provide public comment, visit http://priorities.lacounty.gov/homeless.