Dr. Drew Pinsky has been nominated for a spot on the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, a commission of city and county elected officials.
His nomination by Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger has drawn outage and incredulity, since Pinsky, a television celebrity and addiction medication specialist, has been outspoken in his belief that California has mishandled the homelessness crisis. Some homeless advocates went so far as to believe the all-too-real nomination was a joke.
Barger said Pinsky would bring a “fresh perspective” to the commission. Opponents countered that he would promote harmful views.
Pinsky is no stranger to controversy, even beyond his television appearances. He once termed Covid-19 a “press-induced panic” before backing down and apologizing.
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Mark Horvath, founder of nonprofit Invisible People, questioned the nomination.
“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?”
The commission that would have Pinsky has authority on budgets, funding, planning and programming policy for the homeless. His appointment is scheduled to be discussed at a Tuesday meeting of the Board of Supervisors.
Pinsky, age 62, has expressed surprise that his nomination has proved so controversial, given his longtime work in the mental health and addiction fields. He has claimed that the primary drivers of L.A. County’s homeless crisis is rooted in the lack of services for the treatment of mental illness and drug addiction, not in the lack of housing.
“Something is dreadfully wrong and people are dying,” said Pinsky, who lives in Pasadena. “That’s my biggest concern, and when I go out and talk to homeless people, I encounter my patients, almost exclusively. That doesn’t mean that’s all that’s out there.”
He added, “I don’t think most people in the public understand what is really needed and the depths of services that are required” to solve homelessness, he said.