Study on Homeless Use of Emergency Rooms

LA City & County service agencies, area non-profits convened at Town Hall to address key findings & develop action plan

By LatinoLA Contributor
Published on LatinoLA: August 26, 2014

Study on Homeless Use of Emergency Rooms

The Community Centered Emergency Room Project (CCERP), a program of Social Model Recovery Systems, Inc. (SMRS) hosted a Town Hall meeting at LAC+USC Medical Center with respected leaders of health and social service agencies and organizations. The purpose of this meeting is to release key findings on the health and safety of community members living and/or working near the Los Angeles County + University of Southern California Medical Center (LAC+USC MC) and to develop a collaborative action plan.

The study "Barriers to Wellness: Results From a Community Needs Assessment" surveyed the homeless and housed residents, as well as social workers in Boyle Heights and Lincoln Heights area to gain insights on how to better address the long-term health needs of the homeless who seek refuge in hospital emergency rooms for non-emergency needs.

"We are bringing together various county and city agencies and organizations to collectively develop solutions to address some of the concerns regarding homelessness near and on the hospital grounds," said Zelenne L. C?Ūrdenas, Director of Prevention Services, SMRS. "We recognize that the emergency room has unfortunately become a place of last resort for many of our houseless neighbors ‘«™ through this collaborative effort, we plan to more appropriately serve their long-term health care needs while addressing community risk factors that can help improve the overall health and wellness of the entire community."

SMRS conducted a six-month community assessment in the vicinity of LAC+USC MC, specifically in the communities of Boyle Heights and Lincoln Heights. A mix of qualitative, quantitative, and archival data informed this report. A series of focus groups were conducted with members of the NSA population, hospital staff, enforcement officers, and community residents with permanent homes. In addition, survey data collected by Exodus Recovery, Inc. (Exodus) was included in the analysis. A series of Street and Park Environmental Scans were conducted, and then coupled with Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) crime data.

Homeless Resident Findings:
‘«ů 44% identified as Latino and 31% as African American;
‘«ů 40% of homeless surveyed indicated a need for shelter/housing and 21% perceived the hospital as "where they stayed/lived"; and
‘«ů Of frequent users, men used the emergency department (ED) 6.83 times per year while women averaged 2 visits per year. African Americans used the ED significantly more than Latinos and White non-Hispanics.

Housed Resident Findings:
‘«ů 89% identified as Latino;
‘«ů 38% were concerned "a lot or a tremendous amount" about homeless in the neighborhood yet 91% never experienced a conflict with them;
‘«ů When asked what their homeless neighbors needed most, 69% reported assistance with shelter; and
‘«ů When asked to report the "biggest problems with substances" in their neighborhood, 68% reported alcohol and 60% reported marijuana.
‘«ů 23% of housed residents reported liquor stores to be a major problem; and
‘«ů 26% of housed residents reported they knew of an establishment that "sold alcohol to intoxicated persons"; however, only 21% would be "very likely" to call the authorities to report the site, with 52% stating they would not call because they do not think it would help.

"We welcome this opportunity to collaborate with other organizations and programs that can assist us in redirecting and educating the homeless population around LAC+USC Medical Center," said Cecil Clark, associate hospital administrator at LAC+USC MC. "We want to be able to use other established networks for non-emergency services and shelter to help alleviate the use of our emergency rooms for non-emergency needs," adds chief executive officer of LAC+USC Medical Center, Dan Castillo. "This collaborative effort is the first of its kind and we look forward to these partnerships."

The Community Centered Emergency Room Project (CCERP) is a program of Social Model Recovery Systems, Inc., a multi-faceted human services organization. CCERP is funded by a grant from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Healthy, Substance Abuse Prevention and Control. For a copy of the study or for more information, visit .

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