35,000 Masks to Skid Row Street Outreach Teams focused on Mental Health

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas will facilitate the donation of 35,000 surgical masks to the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health’s Homeless Outreach & Mobile Engagement (HOME) teams at the Downtown Mental Health Clinic in Skid Row.

HOME teams include mental health psychiatrists and counselors, psychiatric nurses and social workers, substance abuse counselors, medical caseworkers, and people who have experienced homelessness. They work directly with people living on the streets, at parks and under freeways to offer compassionate, knowledgeable, collaborative help in accessing medical, psychiatric and social services. They also provide consultation, advocacy, transportation, intensive case management and collaborate with other agencies to coordinate linkages to relevant services and resources – including housing, mental health services, access to healthcare, and benefits establishment.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, HOME teams have been a key part of Los Angeles County’s effort to provide particularly vulnerable populations with critical basic needs, including food, water and clothing, personal protective equipment, temporary stays in a hotel or motel room through Project Roomkey and/or affordable apartments with supportive services.

“HOME teams represent the best of Los Angeles County, going out every day to serve some of our most vulnerable neighbors, literally saving lives in a pandemic,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “With this donation of surgical masks, we can help keep them safe, as well as their clients, who need care more than ever.”

Director General Louis Huang of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Los Angeles, which donated the masks, said, “Taiwan fights relentlessly to protect our friends from COVID-19 and the Taiwan Can Help campaign was launched to ensure masks for all. We are all Angelenos fighting COVID-19 as one. Taiwan stands in solidarity with LA to safeguard the lives in our City of Angels.”

“Throughout the COVID crisis, our staff has remained on the frontlines to serve the County’s most vulnerable individuals and families experiencing homelessness, supporting their wellbeing as the pandemic continues to take a toll on physical and mental health,” said Jonathan E. Sherin, M.D., Ph.D., Director of Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health.  “The vital work our HOME team does would not be possible without their passion and commitment and keeping them safe with personal protective equipment is a priority to us. We thank Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office for their gift of 35,000 surgical masks to support the health of our staff.”

Below is a summary of work performed by the HOME teams since the Safer at Home order was issued in March:

  • 19,513 Outreach Contacts
  • 323 People placed in Project Room Key
  • 79 People placed in Los Angeles Recreation and Parks shelters
  • 31 People transported to Isolation & Quarantine sites for observation/treatment related to COVID-19
  • 122 People placed in interim housing (other than Project Roomkey)
  • 80 People matched to permanent supportive housing
  • 42 people placed in permanent supportive housing
  • 63 People assigned to Full Service Partnership (FSP) intensive mental health treatment programs

As the pandemic continues, the HOME Teams’ focus is shifting from providing transitional services to facilitating ongoing mental health care and safe housing for their clients.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas Steps Up for Skilled Nursing Homes

A day after watchdog agencies released their initial analyses into why skilled nursing homes have been particularly hard hit by COVID-19, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas stepped up to help their patients and staff by donating 20,000 N95 masks and a decontamination kit, and by arranging COVID-19 Mobile Testing at the Santa Fe Heights Healthcare Center in Compton.

“Skilled nursing homes that care for some of our most vulnerable Angelenos – the elderly, the low-income, and the disabled – have struggled more than most to stave off COVID-19,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “Seven months into this pandemic, people who resided or worked in skilled nursing facilities account for 42 percent of deaths across our County. We must be vigilant about ensuring patients and employees have access to personal protective equipment and frequent testing during the pandemic, while also staying focused on reforms that will benefit patients and staff in this industry for the long-term.”

In partnership with SEIU Local 2015, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas facilitated a donation of 20,000 N95 masks from Moldex to skilled nursing homes across Los Angeles County and their employees.

“During this pandemic, nursing home workers are placing their health and safety on the line every day in order to ensure that their residents and patients have the care they need,” April Verrett, President of SEIU Local 2015, said. “It’s shameful that these essential workers still don’t have assurances that they will consistently have the personal protective equipment that’s required to protect themselves and those that they care for from potential exposure to COVID-19. Saying this is unacceptable is an understatement. It’s way past time for elected officials in DC to stop playing politics with our lives. We need a national plan the adequately responds to this crisis.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas also arranged for COVID-19 mobile testing with the help of St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, and facilitated the donation of a decontamination kit from the California Metals Coalition and the Metal Finishing Association of California to clean masks so they can be used multiple times.

“California’s advanced metal manufacturing sector makes essential parts for ventilation machines, infrastructure, aerospace, electric cars, and biotech. When the COVID‐19 crisis escalated in California, our sector’s metal engineers and chemists stepped up,” said James Simonelli, Executive Director of the California Metals Coalition in Sacramento. “Making this technology available for free to impacted communities and healthcare workers is our way of helping as we all navigate these difficult times.”

Yesterday, the Office of Inspect General and Auditor-Controller released their initial analyses into why skilled nursing homes have been an epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. An inadequate supply of personal protective equipment was among the factors they cited.

The Auditor Controller’s report also put a spotlight on the large number of outstanding investigations into skilled nursing facilities – about 11,600 cases. Several hundred of the complaints warned of the potential of “immediate jeopardy” to patients. Subsequent reports by the Inspector General and Auditor Controller are anticipated to provide recommendations on how to address this backlog and improve oversight of these facilities.

Jewish Free Loan Association Extends Support to Second District

As the need for financial relief continues to grow during the COVID-19 pandemic, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas is partnering with the Jewish Free Loan Association (JFLA) to extend financial help to families in financial distress who are living in the Second Supervisor District by offering  no-fee, zero-interest loans. Recognizing the urgent need for support, a grant of $500,000 has been allocated by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to facilitate emergency loans of $3,00-$6,000 for individuals and families and up to $18,000 to aid small businesses who may not qualify through normal financial channels.      

It’s often one car accident, one exorbitant health care bill, one month of not being able to pay rent that can lead a family into financial distress, and far too often, homelessness. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this dynamic,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “I am pleased to be partnering with the Jewish Free Loan Association, one of our communities long-serving lending institutions, to aid families struggling to make ends meet with no-interest and no-fee loans that can meet their urgent needs.” 

Not only can JFLA’s loans be used to help individuals and families facing personal financial struggles, they can also be used to support small businesses through these trying times.  

“At this moment of stress and uncertainty, JFLA remains committed to helping our friends and neighbors get through this unprecedented crisis,” said JFLA Executive Director Rachel Grose.  “With help from partners like Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, our zero-interest loans are making a real difference in people’s lives.” 

“The loan I received from JFLA helped me find a place, pay my deposit and first month’s rent. I know what it feels like to be homeless—I don’t ever want to go back to that dark place,” said one of JFLA’s clients, named Andrea. 

If you are in need of financial assistance, please visit https://www.jfla.org/ for more information and to apply for a loan. 

Skilled Nursing Homes Under Scrutiny

The Inspector General and Auditor-Controller each released their initial report detailing their ongoing investigation into skilled nursing homes. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas called it a critical first step towards improving operations at these facilities, which have accounted for about 42 percent of Los Angeles County’s COVID-19 death toll.

“We still have a lot of work to do, but the Inspector General and Auditor-Controller’s reports provide us with a starting point for tackling complex and deeply-entrenched problems that have plagued skilled nursing homes for decades,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, who is scheduled tomorrow to bring 20,000 donated N95 masks, a decontamination kit, and mobile COVID-19 testing to skilled nursing homes and their employees. “We are undertaking the due diligence required to develop long-term solutions for improving quality of care at skilled nursing homes while simultaneously taking timely steps to promote the ongoing safety of both patients and staff.”

Overseen by the State of California but regulated locally by the County’s Department of Public Health (DPH), skilled nursing homes have been the epicenter of the pandemic in LA County, with about 16,000 infections and 2,500 deaths among patients and staff. In May, the Board of Supervisors approved Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and Chair Kathryn Barger’s motion directing LA County’s Inspector General to investigate skilled nursing homes for the first time. They also tasked LA County’s Auditor Controller with monitoring the facilities and creating a public dashboard showing their COVID-19 case totals, testing frequency, mitigation plan status, personal protective equipment supply and other information. The dashboard went live in September.

In his first interim report back to the Board, Inspector General Max Huntsman examined skilled nursing homes’ COVID-19 mitigation efforts and provided an overview of existing regulatory and oversight structures. He said subsequent reports will analyze the long-standing, complex issues that left many skilled nursing homes ill-prepared to prevent and control the rapid spread of COVID-19 and the systemic failures that have allowed substandard conditions to persist.

“My office is conducting an exhaustive review of barriers to adequate care that have, in many instances, left nursing home residents neglected and abused,” Inspector General Max Huntsman said. “Our County’s most vulnerable residents deserve better, and we are committed to identifying and recommending all reforms necessary to give them the care they need. The pandemic has exacerbated systemic problems, and we need immediate responses and long-term solutions.”

After posting the dashboard about skilled nursing homes in September, Auditor Controller Arlene Barrera released her own first interim report, which highlighted the number of outstanding investigations into skilled nursing facilities. She noted that in addition to 5,407 open investigations, DPH’s Health Facilities Inspection Division (HFID) reported an additional 6,228 in-progress investigations related to other long-term care and short-term care health care facilities.

The Auditor Controller also confirmed that as of June 30th, HFID reported 10% of the 5,407 in-progress investigations had been prioritized at the level of “Immediate Jeopardy,” because the facility’s alleged non-compliance with one or more requirements has caused, or is likely to cause, serious injury, harm, impairment, or death to a resident.

Upcoming reports by the Inspector General and Auditor Controller are expected to include recommendations for addressing this backlog and for streamlining the process.

Governor’s Homekey to Create Hundreds of Affordable Apartments in LA County

Governor Gavin Newsom announced the latest round of funding for Homekey, California’s innovative, nation-leading $600 million program to purchase and rehabilitate housing – including hotels, motels, vacant apartment buildings and other properties – and convert them into permanent, long-term housing for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

To date, Los Angeles County is set to receive $60 million to purchase eight motels with a combined total of 631 rooms. Each room will be converted into affordable apartments with supportive services and rent subsidies funded through the County’s Measure H and state and federal sources.

“Behind every allocation we make for Homekey is the story of a Californian who will no longer have to sleep in a tent, in a car or on the street,” said Governor Newsom. “The partnerships with local leaders and their innovative approaches to homeless solutions are inspiring. From helping victims of domestic violence, to LGBTQ youth, to seniors, we’ve seen bold proposals that help a cross section of Californians struggling to find permanent housing.”

“I applaud Governor Newsom for his unwavering leadership and investing much needed resources to combat this crisis within a crisis – homelessness amid a pandemic,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who championed Measure H and whose district will have three Homekey sites.
“Project Roomkey enabled LA County to bring 4,000 vulnerable people indoors in just months – an unprecedented accomplishment that protected their health and that of the larger community while simultaneously providing a lifeline to struggling businesses,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added. “We are ready for the next phase, Homekey. We have eight motels lined up to be converted into affordable apartments with services, a key component of our COVID-19 recovery rehousing plan.”

The Governor also announced a partnership with Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit dedicated to developing affordable housing, to distribute $45 million in funding – $20 million from Blue Shield of California and $25 million from Kaiser Permanente – to support operating subsidies for Homekey projects. This funding will provide critical support to local jurisdictions to ensure that those housed through this initiative receive critical services like case management, job training, substance abuse counseling and more.

Building on the success of Project Roomkey, Governor Newsom in July announced the availability of $600 million in funding for Homekey, the next phase in the state’s response protecting Californians experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness, following approval by the Legislature as part of the 2020-21 annual state budget. Of that, $550 million will be provided to cities and counties by California’s direct allocation of the federal Coronavirus Aid Relief Funds, with an additional $50 million provided by the state to supplement the acquisition and provide initial operating funds. The Homekey funds are being expended in compliance with federal regulations in response to COVID-19.

HCD began accepting applications for Homekey on July 22, 2020. Additional awards are expected weekly until all $600 million has been awarded. The response from local governments and housing providers was significant – demonstrating the strength of these state-local partnerships. By the application deadline of September 29, a total of 147 applications had been received from 73 entities statewide, with over $1 billion requested.