Drugs Drive a 56% Rise in LA Homeless Deaths

Los Angeles saw a 56% increase in deaths among the homeless between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021, according to a Friday report from the county’s Department of Public Health. The jump was driven primarily by drug overdoses — and fentanyl in particular. The deadly drug is responsible for a similar rise in overdoses in San Francisco and other states and has been behind a handful of high-profile celebrity deaths.

First District Supervisor Hilda L. Solis called the situation “a true state of emergency.”

To combat the rise in homeless deaths, the county will push to expand distribution of naloxone. That’s a drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

President Joe Biden has submitted a federal drug harm reduction plan to Congress. It also calls for expanding access to naloxone and targeting the finances of drug traffickers.

There were several other factors that contributed to the increase in fatalities among LA’s unhoused. Of the 1,988 homeless deaths that occurred over the studied time period, 179 — or about a quarter of the increase from the prior year — were caused by COVID-19. Homicides among the homeless climbed by nearly 50% and traffic-related fatalities rose by more than 30%.



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