Progressive activists in Southern California are pushing back against the appointment of celebrity physician Dr. Drew Pinsky to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA).
The Los Angeles Daily News reports, “if the Board of Supervisors approves the nomination at Tuesday’s meeting, Pinsky would sit on a 10-member commission that governs budgets, funding, planning and policy for the lead agency that coordinates housing and services for the unhoused across L.A. County.”
Pinsky, 62, was nominated to the position last week by L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, the only Republican on the powerful Board of Sups. She represents approximately two million constituents in America’s most populous county. Barger said Pinsky would “bring a fresh perspective with vast medical experience.”
However, the choice sparked immediate outrage by local homeless advocates who say Pinsky has a long history of espousing “problematic” views and making unsubstantiated claims. Commonly known as Dr. Drew, the media personality formerly hosted a local radio show where became partly known for lashing out at California politicians’ handling of the rising homeless population. Some of Pinksy’s critics point to comments he made last April downplaying the COVID-19 threat, which they say should disqualify him from consideration to the homeless commission. Pinsky eventually apologized for those remarks.
“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?” asked Mark Horvath, founder of the nonprofit Invisible People.
Our West Valley Supervisor @kathrynbarger has nominated of Dr. Drew Pinsky to the LAHSA. West Valley orgs & those working most on homelessness say Dr. Drew has been a toxic voice of misinformation on homelessness.
Act TODAY to #DumpDrDrew!
— West Valley People’s Alliance (@WVPple) April 19, 2021
Horvath’s group is part of a progressive coalition opposing Pinsky’s nomination that includes a Black Lives Matter-convened alliance called People’s City Council Los Angeles. They have accused Pinsky of “not using data or research to inform his solution proposals” and “blatantly ignoring several documented causes of homelessness.” The activists are urging allies to contact elected officials to demand they reject Pinsky’s appointment.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Pinsky “said he was surprised by the uproar about appointing a physician who wants to donate his time and has worked in the mental health and addiction field for decades.”
The L.A. Daily News reports:
Barger said she shared Pinsky’s approach to homelessness, which puts a strong emphasis on mental health treatment and addiction recovery — the flip side, critics say, of those calling for bulking up the housing inventory and adding new layers of affordable dwellings — as a remedy for the crisis of the unhoused. Pinsky has angered advocates for the homeless by urging law enforcement to more assertively enforce drug laws as an incentive to get people with addiction issues into mandated treatment programs and on to recovery.
Pinsky said Friday that if appointed he’s not in it to mandate his point of view. He added that he does indeed believe that expanding housing is part of the solution for the homeless crisis but that treatment for mental health needs to be better integrated into public policy.
“I come to this with an open heart and an open mind, and hope to learn as much as possible,” he said.
LAHSA, a joint powers authority of the City and County of Los Angeles, canceled its annual homeless count this year because of the pandemic. L.A. County’s overall homeless population is estimated at approximately 66,000 individuals. The Economic Roundtable, a nonprofit research organization, projects that number will rise to 89,760 by 2023, representing a 36% increase.
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