California Hospitals See Jump in Homeless Visits

California hospitals saw a sizable increase in visits by homeless people in 2017, underscoring the state’s growing indigent population and its declining health.

The latest discharge data shows there were about 100,000 homeless visits to hospitals in 2017, which represents a 28% jump from the previous year. Los Angeles County saw the largest number (35,234), followed by San Diego, Sacramento, Orange and San Francisco.

15.7% of the visits involved a mental disorder. HIV infections accounted for another 15.7%. Alcohol and drug use factored into 15.2%. 4.2% to 7.6% of homeless admits sought help for trauma, drugs, burns, or skin disorders.

The rising hospital visits are due in part to an increase in the state’s homeless population — a phenomenon advocates chalk up to exploding housing costs. From 2015 to 2017, California saw a 16% increase in the number of men and women living on its streets.

However, the new figures also highlight this population’s health struggles.

“The folks who are living in the streets are sicker than the general public,” said Christie Gonzales, director of behavioral health operations for Wellspace Health (California Healthline).