Opinion

FARRELL: California’s Negligence Is Feeding America’s Public Health Crisis

REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Chris Farrell Judicial Watch

Is the so-called homelessness crisis really about lack of housing? No, it is not. The legions on the streets of Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and other communities across the country are largely in the grips of drug and alcohol addiction, and other untreated mental health disorders.

Negligence is just another form of government corruption — and government officials at all levels who facilitate and enable the worsening of our national public mental health emergency must be held accountable. For decades, the left has created and subsidized the conditions contributing to lives lost to addiction and untreated mental disorders.

The government negligence masquerades as phony compassion, enabling a soft bigotry of hollow platitudes and rationalization condemning the afflicted to a tortured existence with no real escape.

In a rally in Cincinnati, President Trump decried the Third World-style living conditions in some parts of the country. “What they are doing to our beautiful California is a disgrace to our country,” he said. “It’s a shame. The world is looking at it. Look at Los Angeles with the tents and the horrible, horrible conditions. Look at San Francisco, look at some of your other cities. No one has paid a higher price for the far-left destructive agenda than Americans living in our nation’s inner cities.” He added that the billions of dollars spent to mitigate the problems is “stolen money, and it’s wasted money.”

The president’s critics are quick to write off this kind of criticism as just another rant. But it is hard to argue with the evidence. In 2018 Leilani Farha, the United Nations special rapporteur on adequate housing, toured San Francisco and said she couldn’t “help but be completely shocked” by what she saw. And this was after touring Manila, Jakarta and Mexico City.

The San Francisco area’s GDP is over $500 billion, which alone would put it in the top 25 of global economies. But it is also the first city in the world to have an interactive map to help people avoid concentrations of human excrement and discarded hypodermic needles. Some point to California Proposition 47 (the ironically named Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act), passed in 2014, that radically reduced enforcement and penalties for a variety of nonviolent crimes. Denver and New York City have also passed laws that either reduce or eliminate penalties for public defecation and other “lifestyle” offenses. And the easier these cities make it to be homeless, the more street people there will be.

Nationally, the numbers of homeless have declined since 2007, and the number of beds in emergency shelters and permanent supportive housing increased from 400,000 to 650,000. But in California homelessness has increased, and the latest estimates show around 130,000 homeless in the Golden State.

Dr. Drew Pinsky confirmed recently that the problem is not so much a lack of housing as a mental health crisis. “We have had total decay of our mental health provisions for the chronically mentally ill,” he said on Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle. “One hundred percent of the people in the streets were either major mental illness or drug addiction, one hundred percent.” He said that conditions are basically “medieval.”

And with the dark ages you inevitably get plagues. The next phase of the public health crisis is already developing. In Los Angeles, there was an outbreak of flea-borne typhus (ironically hitting city hall) after a noticeable increase in the number of rats and vermin.The problem is not just the proliferation of homeless encampments but also a breakdown in the sanitation system that allows trash to accumulate.

Dr. Drew speculated that bubonic plague could begin to incubate in these conditions. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are on average seven such cases yearly, with California being one of the regions in which it is more prevalent.

Conditions in Los Angeles are at emergency levels, and have become so bad that there is a movement to remove Mayor Eric Garcetti over his inability to stem the crisis.

So, amidst the biggest jobs economy in the history of the country, record numbers of people working, record low unemployment rates across many sectors and more people making more money than ever, the “homelessness’ symptoms persist. That’s because homelessness is a red herring. It’s a misnomer used by government officials so negligent, cowardly, and politically correct that they seek to distract and divert attention from a public mental health emergency they are utterly unprepared to tackle.

Warehousing the mentally ill does not help them recover. There is no government plan, anywhere in the country — municipal, state or federal — to identify, diagnose, treat and set on the path to recovery the millions of afflicted American citizens. Only President Trump has had the raw honesty to call it as he sees it — and, per usual, that only results in name-calling from the left.

Democrats ignored the issue in their recent presidential candidate debates, because they would have to admit the crushing failures of their urban policies, and the negligence and incompetence of city governments they have dominated cities since World War II. They would have to explain why even as more money is being devoted to countering the problem, the challenge is still getting worse.

They can’t explain it, because they can’t admit it.

The national public health emergency is corrosive to the fabric of communities across the country. The negligence of government officials endangers the public safety of tax-paying citizens, law enforcement, and public health.

Chris Farrell is director of investigations and research for Judicial Watch, a nonprofit watchdog group. He previously worked as a counterintelligence case officer.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.