UPDATE: Tuesday, April 20 — Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who’d planned to nominate Dr. Drew Pinksy for the county’s homeless services commission at today’s Board of Supervisors meeting, announced that she was withdrawing him from consideration after substantial pushback from homeless advocates and people in the addiction community.
Barger said the celebrity doctor’s nomination had become a “distraction,” adding in a statement that the “proposed appointment took away from these important conversations about care for people experiencing homelessness.”
She continued, “We need to face the sad reality of homelessness in Los Angeles: individuals are dying on our streets from preventable causes due to mental illness and substance abuse. I hope we can move past pettiness and instead focus our time and energy on working to solve the hard problems, rather than looking for excuses to place blame.”
Pinsky, who’s known for the long-running radio show Loveline and his stint hosting Celebrity Rehab, is a longtime critic of California’s handling of the homeless crisis, frequently blaming it on homeless individuals’ supposed drug addiction, untreated mental illness, and resistance to accepting help. Over the weekend, a #DumpDrDrew campaign gained steam on Instagram and Twitter.
Barger hasn’t said who she’ll appoint in his place.
Monday, April 19 — Last week, Republican Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger nominated TV’s David “Dr. Drew” Pinsky for the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, leaving many advocates baffled.
Known for the long-running radio show Loveline and his stint hosting Celebrity Rehab (which he quit in 2013 because he was sick of “taking the heat” for patients’ deaths), Pinsky has been critical of California’s handling of the homeless crisis, frequently insisting that the vast majority of unhoused individuals are drug addicts and dementia victims who refuse help and housing when it’s offered.
Now, people who are in the business of helping the homeless wonder what business Dr. Drew has serving on the ten-member body.
While Barger says the Pasadena resident will bring a “fresh perspective” to LAHSA, Pinsky’s approach, which favors police crackdowns like the one in Echo Park Lake and the threat of still penalties for drug users, strikes some as anything but new.
“Elevating someone to that position is kind of inherently saying, ‘This is someone who is qualified and has expertise on the issue of homelessness,’” Ktown for All co-founder Mike Dickerson—whose group is calling for Dr. Drew’s nomination to be rejected—tells the Los Angeles Times. “I don’t think that’s an accurate portrayal of Dr. Drew and his background.”
Pinsky believes that too few homeless people are involuntarily committed for mental illness. He has estimated that 60 to 85 percent of that population are drug addicts and/or what he deems “resistant cases”—schizophrenics and other people he likens to stroke victims, claiming that they suffer from anosognosia, a condition in which a person cannot recognize that they have a mental disability.
“In a right hemisphere stroke one side of the body goes out and the patient doesn’t know it, even when they see their hand flop over,” he has said. “It’s the same condition in dementia, and if you left that patient on the street, you would be considered cruel and you would be liable.”
Mark Horvath, founder of the nonprofit Invisible People, told the Times that when he started tweeting about Pinsky’s nomination, people thought it was a joke.
ALL of the people who hate homeless people spreading negative propaganda LOVE @drdrew. He even has them on his show! The vast majority of the people including medical professionals and service providers are against Drew having anything to do w homelessness https://t.co/M7kFOdvzst
— Mark Horvath (@hardlynormal) April 19, 2021
“The majority of homeless people are sober. The majority are kids under 16 years old,” he says. “I mean, couldn’t [Barger] have picked Kim Kardashian?”
Pinsky is also famous for floating the idea that COVID-19 was just another flu until he contracted the virus and then apologized.
“Even on a surface level, why are you [appointing] a celebrity doctor—and I use the term ‘doctor’ loosely—that has recent activity with being a COVID denier?” Horvath asks.
LAHSA is authorized to make budgetary, funding, and planning policy but doesn’t make individual staffing decisions aside from selecting its executive director. The Board of Supervisors is set to discuss Pinsky’s appointment on Tuesday. It generally hands down unanimous approval of all nominees for local boards and commissions.
Stay on top of the latest in L.A. food and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today.