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Audit Blasts LA County for Failing Homeless and Mentally Ill, $286M Unspent

A recent audit, conducted by Tim Campbell for the LA Alliance for Human Rights, —an organization consisting of a wide range of Los Angeles residents and business owners advocating for immediate and thorough solutions to the city's homelessness crisis—revealed that $210 million from Measure H—a sales tax increase approved by county voters to create a dedicated revenue stream for combating and preventing homelessness—remains unspent.

This discovery is particularly alarming given that the county is grappling with a homelessness crisis, with over 55,000 individuals living without shelter, marking the highest figure nationwide.

Central to this issue, Los Angeles County's own analysis underscoring the severe needs of its homeless population, highlighting the urgent necessity for income support and mental health, as well as drug and addiction services. Their reports recommend the integration of homeless individuals into conventional services, suggesting that this approach could significantly improve their quality of life. Furthermore, the analysis indicates that Measure H could play a pivotal role in reducing homelessness by fostering a cooperative approach across various county departments.

Nevertheless, the Alliance audit reveals a profound deficiency in the county's initiatives, showing that, despite the comprehensive plans devised under Measure H, the actual implementation has fallen short of addressing the critical needs of these vulnerable communities.

The audit's timing is critical, coinciding with the LA Alliance filing a motion seeking compliance from the City of Los Angeles due to the city's inaction on their settlement agreement. This move underscores the Alliance's determination to hold the city and county accountable for addressing the homelessness crisis effectively.

“It is outrageous that after years of increased suffering on the street and telling the public that it is doing the best it can to address homelessness the County is sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars that can be used to provide lifesaving treatment,” said Paul Webster, Executive Director of the LA Alliance.

Resources Significantly Underutilized

The audit highlights a critical misstep in the county's approach, which prioritizes housing while overlooking essential services and treatments for those with serious mental health issues. It reveals that over four years, the Department of Mental Health spent just $9.991 million out of the $28.646 million allocated by Measure H funds, effectively serving only approximately 35% of individuals grappling with severe mental health challenges.

Additionally, the audit reveals a chronic underutilization of Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) funds, with an average of $286 million annually left unspent over the past five years. This shortfall takes place in a context where the county itself acknowledges that approximately 63% of its chronically homeless residents suffer from mental illness.  

“For the sickest and most vulnerable, who are often dual-diagnosed with a mental illness and substance use disorder, the County is obligated to provide treatment,” said Webster.  “This audit shows that the County can be helping so many more than it is, which will lead to fewer untreated and unhoused people.” 

The audit also underscored considerable funding deficits in the Full Service Partnership (FSP) program, designed to assist adults aged 26-59 who are diagnosed with severe mental illnesses requiring comprehensive services. The report faulted the program for failing to fulfill the needs of its intended demographic, noting, "Although the FSP program is designed to offer essential comprehensive services to the severely mentally ill homeless population, it falls short of providing adequate support for most of those it aims to help in L.A. County."

Moreover, the audit brought to light critical shortcomings in how Los Angeles County tackles substance abuse issues among the homeless. Despite dedicating over $885 million to substance abuse prevention and treatment initiatives, merely 22.6% of those in need actually accessed these services.

The audit issued a recommendation that the County implement new accountability programs and improve service tracking and outcome procedures. "Despite the recommendations of the State Auditor and support from the MHSA Commission, there is no evidence that the County has instituted any improved service tracking and outcome procedures," the audit states, highlighting the urgent need for reform. 

Moving forward, the Alliance says it is committed to closely monitoring the County's progress in a settlement it reached with the organization to produce 3,000 new mental health and substance use treatment beds, ensuring it adheres to the metrics and milestones established in the settlement as it submits reports. Webster notes that the audit serves as a foundational benchmark for assessing whether the County's situation is improving, deteriorating, or remaining unchanged.

You can read the full report at

Jamie Paige Feb 12, 2024


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