(SACRAMENTO) — 1,383 homeless individuals died on the streets of Los Angeles in 2020– setting a grim record for the city. Most died from preventable diseases. While homeless deaths in LA have been rising for years, the pandemic has only made matters worse.
People experiencing homelessness (PEH) are sicker than the general population but have less access to preventative and mental health care. Even when insured under Medi-Cal, 73% have never seen a healthcare provider. Concerns for basic survival needs, transportation, difficulty keeping active insurance due to lack of a mailing address, lack of ID and mental illness, make it difficult, if not impossible, for PEH to access care in the traditional healthcare model.
Assemblymember Sydney Kamlager (D–Los Angeles) introduced the Street Medicine Act to change that. The Street Medicine Act will increase access to medical care and social services for PEH through an innovative health care model: street medicine. Street medicine removes access barriers by providing direct, comprehensive care to the unsheltered homeless on the streets and under bridges where they live.
“Right now, the unsheltered homeless are dying in record numbers on the streets of Los Angeles. Asking them to find a doctor, get an insurance card, leave their belongings behind unguarded and get to a doctor’s office clearly isn’t working. AB 369 is about going to the streets, meeting our brothers and sisters where they are, and getting them the consistent, preventative care they need,” Kamlager said.
Street medicine has been shown to reduce avoidable, expensive hospital admissions by 2/3, and to reduce the duration of hospitalization. “We know that people experiencing homelessness have life expectancies that are 30 years shorter than folks who are housed. We know that they have 740% more admission days at 170% higher cost. And we know that all of that is bad math,” said Kamlager.
If passed, AB 369 would make California the first state in the nation to formally recognize street medicine as a model of care. “Health care is a basic human right,” Kamlager added. “At the end of the day, it’s about equity. It’s about justice. It’s about compassion and doing what’s right.”
To schedule an interview with Assemblymember Kamlager, contact Nikki Johnson at (916) 319-2054.
Assembly District 54 consists of Baldwin Hills, Cheviot Hills, the Crenshaw District, Century City, Culver City, Ladera Heights, Mar Vista, Palms, Rancho Park, Westwood and parts of South Los Angeles and Inglewood.