LOS ANGELES, Calif. (AP) - According to authorities, approximately 2,000 homeless persons died in Los Angeles County during the first year of the epidemic, a 56 percent increase over the previous year, primarily as a result of drug overdoses.
The findings, published in a study by the county's Department of Public Health on Friday, demonstrate that the virus was not to blame for the deaths of California's largest unsheltered population, despite initial concerns. However, after services were dramatically restricted to prevent the virus from spreading, people were cut off from mental health and substance abuse therapy.
According to the data, 1,988 homeless people died in the county between April 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021, up from 1,271 during the same time last year.
Drug overdoses were the primary cause of mortality in both years, but the first year of the epidemic saw a 78 percent increase. The Department of Public Health reported 402 fatal overdoses in the year leading up to the pandemic. According to the research, that number nearly doubled to 715 in the year after the outbreak.
According to the report, 179 homeless persons died from COVID-19 in the first year of the pandemic.
In a statement, Region 1 Director Hilda Solis said, "The findings in this report show a true state of emergency." "No one in a civic society could be more horrified by the terrible needs outlined in this year's homeless death report," says the author.
According to a research done by the University of California, San Francisco, and the city's Department of Public Health, between March 2020 and March 2021, San Francisco had 331 homeless deaths, more than twice as many as prior years, with drug overdose being the top cause of death.
Los Angeles County is home to Skid Row, a notoriously impoverished and drug-infested region, and the city's homeless population was originally mostly confined. Tents, cardboard shacks, rusty RVs, and improvised plywood constructions have become familiar sights in the United States' second most populous metropolis.
Cities and states around the country are straining to cope with an escalating homeless population and a mental health crisis. According to the 2020 homeless count mandated by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, California has the country's biggest homeless population, with an estimated 161,000 persons, about a quarter of whom suffer from significant mental illness.
The fentanyl pandemic, according to authorities, may have aggravated an already burgeoning drug and overdose problem. Methamphetamine was linked to the majority of deaths (75%), which was similar to the previous year. However, fentanyl's role in overdose deaths nearly doubled, reaching 45 percent, according to the analysis.
"The COVID-19 pandemic's impact on the homeless has certainly gone beyond the immediate impact of this new lethal virus," stated Barbara Ferrell, director of the Los Angeles Department of Public Health. "The pandemic exacerbates the difficulties that these vulnerable groups are already dealing with."
According to the report, the surge in fatal overdoses is being driven by homeless adolescents, Latinos, and blacks.
According to the report, coronary heart disease was the second largest cause of mortality in the first year of the pandemic, with 309 deaths, up roughly 30% from the previous year.