Dr. Drew Responds To Backlash Over Nomination To L.A. Homeless Commission, Denies Accusations – Updated

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Bruce Haring
·4 min read
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UPDATED with latest: After a cascade of events that saw his name withdrawn from consideration for for a spot on the powerful Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, Dr. Drew Pinsky spoke out on Tuesday.

In a statement to Newsweek, Pinsky said he never sought the appointment. “I went in with an open heart and mind and to see if I had something to offer to help them,” he said.

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Opponents of his nomination have said Dr. Drew has supported policies that criminalize homelessness.

Drew, for his part, maintains, “I am categorically opposed to criminality of homelessness or drug use.” He called the assertion a “complete and utter falsity.”

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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the Los Angeles mayor and the City Council created the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority as an independent, joint powers authority. The commission has traditionally overseen a yearly budget of $800 million to deal with the county’s massive homeless crisis. On Monday, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti allocated $1 billion in the city’s newest budget to deal with that crisis.

PREVIOUSLY, APRIL 19: Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger told the Los Angeles Times on Monday that she had withdrawn Dr. Drew Pinsky’s nomination for a spot on the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

The news come in the wake of an outcry against his nomination, which included a #DumpDrDrew Twitter campaign.

The Times characterized Barger, who represents LA’s 5th District, as expressing dismay that “the appointment of a doctor with a passion for addressing these issues when a new voice is clearly needed,” would be questioned.

“We need to face the sad reality of homelessness in Los Angeles: individuals are dying on our streets from preventable causes due to mental illness and substance abuse,” she told The Times. “I hope we can move past pettiness and instead focus our time and energy on working to solve the hard problems, rather than looking for excuses to place blame.”

PREVIOUSLY, APRIL 18: Dr. Drew Pinsky has been nominated for a spot on the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, a commission of city and county elected officials.

His nomination by Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger has drawn outage and incredulity, since Pinsky, a television celebrity and addiction medication specialist, has been outspoken in his belief that California has mishandled the homelessness crisis. Some homeless advocates went so far as to believe the all-too-real nomination was a joke.

Barger said Pinsky would bring a “fresh perspective” to the commission. Opponents countered that he would promote harmful views.

Pinsky is no stranger to controversy, even beyond his television appearances. He once termed Covid-19 a “press-induced panic” before backing down and apologizing.

Mark Horvath, founder of nonprofit Invisible People, questioned the nomination.

“Even on a surface level, why are you (appointing) a celebrity doctor — and I use the term ‘doctor’ loosely — that has recent activity with being a COVID denier?”

The commission that would have Pinsky has authority on budgets, funding, planning and programming policy for the homeless. His appointment is scheduled to be discussed at a Tuesday meeting of the Board of Supervisors.

Pinsky, age 62, has expressed surprise that his nomination has proved so controversial, given his longtime work in the mental health and addiction fields. He has claimed that the primary drivers of L.A. County’s homeless crisis is rooted in the lack of services for the treatment of mental illness and drug addiction, not in the lack of housing.

“Something is dreadfully wrong and people are dying,” said Pinsky, who lives in Pasadena. “That’s my biggest concern, and when I go out and talk to homeless people, I encounter my patients, almost exclusively. That doesn’t mean that’s all that’s out there.”

He added, “I don’t think most people in the public understand what is really needed and the depths of services that are required” to solve homelessness, he said.

Matt Grobar and Tom Tapp contributed to this report.

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