Kathryn Barger: Dr. Drew would have made a good homeless services commissioner

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Dr. Drew Pinsky visits the SiriusXM Hollywood Studio last year.
Dr. Drew Pinsky visits the SiriusXM Hollywood Studio last year. (Getty Images)

To the editor: I recommended Dr. Drew Pinsky — a respected physician with decades of experience in mental health and substance abuse treatment — to serve as my Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority commissioner, knowing that he would address these issues as driving factors in the homelessness crisis.

A UCLA study found in 2019 that about 78% of the unsheltered homeless population in Los Angeles suffered from a mental health issue, often intertwined with substance abuse. Yet we continue to focus on housing supply and affordable housing as the primary solutions.

The status quo is not working. Homelessness is increasing, and individuals are dying on the streets. As such, I am dismayed that anyone would question the appointment of a trained physician with years of experience working with individuals suffering from substance abuse disorders and mental health issues.

I remain committed to addressing the homelessness crisis but know that we cannot continue on the same path. It's time to address the issues that afflict the vast majority of our homeless population and start bringing forward solutions to these hard problems.

Kathryn Barger, Los Angeles

The writer is a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

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To the editor: Donald Trump, Jesse Ventura and Arnold Schwarzenegger parlayed their celebrity status into powerful, decision-making government roles. And now, Barger tried to appoint Pinsky to the Homeless Services Authority board.

The people living on our streets are not pawns in a reality show. This is a humanitarian crisis requiring skilled commissioners to guide necessary changes at the largest homeless housing agency in the world.

Paul Dumont, North Hollywood

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To the editor: I was on staff with Pinsky and have treated thousands of homeless patients as an emergency room social worker. At least half of them, if not more, had substance abuse and mental health problems.

I am as frustrated as Pinsky is over the inability to get these people the help they need, even if they don't recognize it. A brief incarceration often is the start to getting these patients off street drugs or alcohol and on the appropriate treatment regime for their diagnosis.

Bob Lanz, Los Angeles

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.