As Overdoses Soar In Los Angeles, Groups Hand Out Drug Pipes To The Homeless

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Erinn Broadus Investigative Reporter
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As overdoses soar in Los Angeles, especially among the homeless, city groups have provided homeless people with drug pipes and other tools used for drug consumption, according to the Los Angeles Times.

As the city increasingly confronts the danger of fatal overdoses, some groups, such as the LA Community Health Project and Homeless Outreach Program Integrated Care System (HOPICS) have responded by offering drug pipes and tools to administer illegal drugs safely, the Los Angeles Times reported. Los Angeles is currently experiencing record-breaking overdoses, especially among the homeless population.

According to a report released this month, over 2,000 homeless Los Angeles residents died in 2021. Of those, overdoses were the leading cause of death, and instances of overdose deaths among the homeless increased by 105% from 2019 to 2021, from 579 in 2019 to 1189 in 2021. (RELATED: Nearly Three-Quarters Of San Francisco Residents Think City Is On The Wrong Track: POLL)

The pipes are part of a broader effort of “harm reduction,” which offers clean supplies to avid drug users to combat further problems associated with their drug use, like Hepatitis or HIV, from using dirty needles. The drug pipes are administered in the hopes that users will switch from more harmful modes of consumption, like needle usage to smoking, which doesn’t have the same collateral consequences, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Some residents in the area say that offering free drug tools isn’t helping curb drug use, and some see it as helping addicts fall further into their addiction. The pipes bring in a lot of individuals to harm reduction centers, said Sandra Mims of LA Community Health Project, according to the Los Angeles Times. “Those are the crowd pleasers,” said Mims. Further, most drug addicts draw from the county’s general relief fund, which administers just over $200 a month per person, she said.

Smoking isn’t as harmful as intravenous drug use, that is why the county needs to distribute pipes to those in need, she claims. “We want to get them smoking; basically fentanyl is in everything,” she said.

On a street once called “Murder Alley,” 61-year-old Juanita Richardson approached the outreach team and asked for everything they could give her. “This fentanyl, it’s nothing to laugh at,” she said to the Los Angeles Times.

Richardson doesn’t use illicit drugs every day and openly explained that she planned to sell the tools given to her from the outreach group to addicts on the street. Oscar Arellano, program manager for the HOPICS team, said that he had no problem with people selling the drug pipes to other addicts.

Currently, the packages contain three different glass pipes for different drugs, according to Mims. They accommodate meth, crack and heroin. For Richardson, that equates to $10 for a “pookie,” used for meth, and $5 for a crack pipe.

“We’re not condoning; we’re supporting,” Arellano said.

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