Pixel Tracker

Sunday, February 17 , 2019, 5:58 am | Fair 49º

 
 
 
 

Santa Barbara County Report Finds Challenges Remain with Efforts to Prevent Homeless Deaths

Board of Supervisors hears from a Public Health Department doctor about a review team's study of 90 deaths over a two-year period

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors heard from Public Health officials Tuesday about a report detailing dozens of homeless deaths in the county.

Ninety homeless people died from Jan. 1, 2009, to Dec. 31, 2010, in Santa Barbara County, according to a report from the Santa Barbara County Homeless Death Review Team.

The team was tasked in 2008 with reviewing the deaths and determining how to avoid others. The leading cause of death listed in the report was alcohol and drug abuse. More than three-quarters of the decedents suffered from alcoholism.

Dr. David Lennon, a physician with the county Public Health Department, led the project and provided an overview to county supervisors.

He said several successes have resulted since the team first started examining the deaths, including resource sharing among county agencies, improving access to housing and increasing street outreach.

The Common Ground Vulnerability Index was issued by thousands of volunteers last spring to identify the most vulnerable homeless and work to get them housing. Since the survey, Lennon said, 90 people have been moved into housing.

Challenges remain, however, including a lack of beds for homeless people recuperating after being released from the hospital. The Casa Esperanza Homeless Shelter and WillBridge are the only places that provide limited respite care in the South County, while none exist in the North County.

There also remains a large gap between the time people access services and when they die, according to the report. Lennon said that gap is as much as a year for visits to the Public Health Department, and multiple years for alcohol and drug treatment.

He said the current model of stationary clinics is having limited success.

“We really need to look at more street outreach,” Lennon said, adding that volunteer physicians, such as those with Doctors Without Walls, could help keep costs down for the county.

Supervisor Salud Carbajal asked how the county is reaching out to dually diagnosed people, and Lennon said it remains an ongoing problem.

One solution may be to start a “clinic on wheels” through which the homeless could access medical, mental health and substance abuse help, “so that the whole person can be treated,” he said.

At Carbajal’s suggestion, Public Health staff will return to the board with an action plan in the coming months.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Talk to Us!

Please take Noozhawk's audience survey to help us understand what you expect — and want — from us. It'll take you just a few minutes. Thank you!

Get Started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Email
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership
×

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.