May 11, 2022 – “The hardest part is to get there,” Elias said. “Soma — she has so much to do and she goes out of her way to help so many people. But she is only one person.”

Skid row has long been the downtown zone where Los Angeles has shunted services for its most destitute. Yet when people like Elias want to try to wrench free from opioid addiction, the closest options for getting daily doses of methadone may be miles away in Boyle Heights, Westlake and South Park, according to federal and localdirectories. Veterans Affairs also has a downtown clinic providing methadone treatment, but it treats only veterans eligible for its care.

“It’s a real challenge for my patients,” said Dr. Emily Thomas, deputy medical director of Housing for Health, a division in the L.A. County Department of Health Services. What health officials here have learned, she said, “is that you really have to bring healthcare services to people experiencing homelessness — and those who are formerly homeless — where they are.”


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