Board and care homes for residents with serious mental illnesses are closing at an alarming rate, according to Los Angeles County supervisors who voted Tuesday to take steps to expand the network.
Supervisors Janice Hahn and Sheila Kuehl said the adult residential facilities are needed to stem the homelessness crisis.
"Not only do board and cares provide treatment to individuals with serious mental illness, they are long-term homes for residents who may very well be homeless otherwise," Hahn said. "We cannot afford to lose any more board and cares in the middle of this homelessness crisis."
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The licensed facilities provide long-term housing combined with 24-hour assisted living services to individuals who are unable to live on their own due to serious mental illness or medical problems. They range from six beds in a single-family home to large centers that house more than 100 residents.
Kuehl said they are a critical part of the county safety net.
"Board and care facilities help people who might otherwise be homeless or hospitalized because of mental illness maintain their health and dignity," Kuehl said.
The county had 1,132 adult residential facilities with beds for 11,743 people as of March 20. However, a recent report by the county's mental health commission found that many are struggling to stay afloat financially with daily rents of $35.
"The business model for board and cares is becoming non-viable," said Dr. Jonathan Sherin, director of the Department of Mental Health. "And in a market like we have now, they're beginning to close."
The Board of Supervisors directed county health agency staffers to report back in 60 days with a plan to stabilize and grow the number of facilities and explore other licensed and unlicensed options that could house individuals with serious mental illnesses.
The staffers will also look at funding opportunities to support the facilities.