Colton School Board Member and candidate for Fifth District Supervisor Dan Flores recently unveiled his multi-pronged plan to help solve the growing problem of homelessness in San Bernardino County.
“California is facing a crisis when it comes to the number of homeless living on the streets,” said Dan Flores. “The fact is nearly half of the unsheltered adults in our county suffer from mental illness and/or substance use disorder. Creating housing alone won’t solve the problem—it’s a complex problem that requires a multi-faceted solution.”
The 2019 San Bernardino County Point in Time Count indicated a 23% increase in the number of homeless living in the county compared to 2018. Of the 703 chronically homeless adults counted, 40% have a mental health disability, 45% suffer from a substance use disorder, and 30% were released from a correctional facility within the past year.
“The cost of failing to address homelessness is clear. Our hospitals have become a revolving door for the homeless and our jails are overburdened with mentally ill inmates who have a history of homelessness and would be better treated in a community-based program. It’s costing us millions and it’s not solving the problem,” Flores said.
To fix chronic homelessness, Flores has developed a 4-point plan named Operation Crossroads:
· The establishment of a multi-departmental Homeless Outreach Team to meet homeless where they are and help get them off the street. This includes mental health professionals who will conduct field assessments and determine eligibility for emergency housing and services.
· The expansion of the Behavioral Health Unit at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center to address the lack of beds for psychiatric patients. Emergency rooms are impacted by adult and juvenile psychiatric patients because there are not enough psychiatric facilities that can accept them. This causes delays in the ER and slows response times for other patients needing emergency medical help. Expanding the number of beds at the County’s Behavioral Health unit, and including a pediatric unit, will help unclog our local emergency rooms and expedite treatment for psychiatric patients, many of whom experience homelessness.
· Implementation of Laura’s Law, which allows for court-ordered treatment to be provided to those with a serious mental illness and a history of hospitalizations, jail time, or violent behavior. For those who resist treatment and have a history of violence or incarceration, Laura’s Law serves as a tool that allows police officers, family members, and medical professionals to petition a judge for court ordered treatment.
· Expand the Medicated Assisted Treatment (MAT) Program in county jails to combat the growing opioid crisis. MAT Programs use medications to help individuals overcome their addiction to opioids. In Rhode Island, the post-release overdose death rate dropped 61% within one year after the state implemented a MAT Program within its correctional facilities. In 2019, San Bernardino County joined a state sponsored pilot program to implement a MAT program in its jails. I will push for additional local funding to expand the MAT program in order to reduce opioid related overdoses and recidivism within our county.
Flores’ plan has received support from health care and law enforcement professionals:
“In our County I see and treat the homeless in our Emergency Departments every day,” said Dr. Rodney Borger, Chairman of Emergency Medicine at ARMC. “The chronically homeless that have serious mental health and substance abuse problems are the hardest to treat. Dan understands that we must address these underlying problems by building our capacity to prioritize treatment of mental health disorders. Allowing the severely mentally ill to live on the streets is not the answer, and we can do better,” added Dr. Borger.
Deputy District Attorney, and President of San Bernardino County Public Attorneys Association, Rick Lal said “Just as with many communities around the country, the growing problem of chronic homelessness in San Bernardino County is of great concern to all. We support Dan for his proactive willingness to tackle this difficult issue which affects everyone.” Lal further added “His well-reasoned approach and solid commitment to finding solutions is emblematic of the type of leadership that Dan will bring to our County.”
“I am committed to doing whatever it takes to reduce the number of chronic homeless in our county,” said Flores. “We can’t settle for doing the same thing and expect different results. As County Supervisor, I will be at the forefront, tackling the tough issues like mental health and addiction in order to get people off the streets.”
Dan Flores, a Colton native, has served on the Board of Education for the Colton Joint Unified School District since 2012 and is the Chief of Staff for 5th District Supervisor Josie Gonzales.