Santa Monica is currently working through a homelessness crisis that has touched almost every corner of our City and County. Our social service institutions are struggling to ramp up services to care for those with mental illness, drug abuse, or simply house those who due to skyrocketing rent, have been displaced.
The Social Services Commission recognizes the compassion Santa Monica residents have shown during this crisis. New County taxes have been passed to build more housing and exponentially expand social services to help those experiencing homelessness and/or mental illness to overcome their circumstances.
We need more psychiatric beds. According to leading mental health experts, the minimum number of beds required to appropriately meet the need is 50 public mental health beds per 100,000 individuals. In Los Angeles County, there are only 22.7 beds per 100,000 individuals, in Santa Monica, with a population of just under 100,000; we have ZERO.
Yet, we have a unique opportunity right now to collaborate with a Santa Monica institution that has a long history of community service. Providence St. John’s Medical Center is currently working through a 20-year expansion plan that will allow Providence St. John’s to provide better regional service to the entire Westside of Los Angeles.
As part of this expansion plan, Providence St. John’s will be working with the City of Santa Monica to craft a Development Agreement that provides the City with long-term benefits. The Social Services Commission wants to ensure that Santa Monica residents, who will be directly affected by construction, traffic, and displacement; receive the community benefits of the development agreement. While we understand that the Medical Center will be a regional resource; the expansion pains will be felt exclusively locally.
We have some recommendations for the City of Santa Monica and Providence St. Johns to ensure we tackle our existing community needs:
First, the City of Santa Monica currently has zero psychiatric beds. As a community benefit to those experiencing homelessness and/or mental illness, we request Providence St. John’s Medical Center have 50 psychiatric beds on-site by the end of the 20-year expansion, but with 10 psychiatric beds within the first three years of the expansion. This is a massive unmet need in not just the City of Santa Monica, but the entire County of Los Angeles.
Second, we request Providence St. John’s Health Center to directly fund and expand the Preserve Our Diversity program that keeps low-income seniors at risk of losing their housing in their homes and off our streets. Preventing new people from losing their housing is vital to reducing our homelessness that has reached crisis levels.
Third, we would like Providence St. John’s Medical Center to provide and staff a monthly mobile van to do health screenings for individuals experiencing homelessness (for example typhus screenings and treatment).
Fourth, the Commission appreciates the dedication to a homeless navigator, however, we would like Providence St. John’s to add 24-hour social workers in the emergency room to work with multiple needs such as homelessness and victims of crime.
Fifth, we request a minimum of one-third of the slots at the new daycare center for Santa Monica residents who are not employed by Providence St. John’s but low- income.
Sixth, we request family planning counseling for Santa Monica high school students.
Seventh, we request bi-monthly health clinics for Santa Monica College students who are experiencing homelessness or are nutritionally compromised.
Eighth, we request that the new conference center be available at least four times a month for community groups to use for free.
Finally, we ask Providence St. John’s Medical Center to offer wellness programs such as one for children to combat obesity and diabetes and other targeted age groups such as certificates for youth participating in sports programs.
We need all our institutions to help solve this homelessness crisis and better meet the behavioral health needs of the whole community. Only together, can we get people off our streets and back on their feet. The burden must not just be taxpayers but every institution in our great city. We strongly urge the City of Santa Monica and Providence St. John’s Health Center to make psychiatric beds a necessary priority within the development agreement.
The views expressed are those of the Santa Monica Social Services Commission, which provides recommendations to the City Council regarding policies to guide the provision of social services to City residents. The Social Services Commission does not set City policy, and the views expressed should not be taken to be those of the City Council or the City.