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Could Shuttered St. Vincent Hospital House Beds For Vulnerable Angelenos?

A six-story white building sits in the background.
St. Vincent Medical Center
(Reed Saxon/AP)
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The 350-bed St. Vincent Medical near downtown L.A. has sat shuttered since 2020, save for a period when it reopened to treat COVID-19 patients.

Mental health advocates believe there’s a better use for all that space, and they’re pushing for the current owner of the facility to reopen it in some capacity.

Kerry Morrison, founder of mental health non-profit Heart Forward said she volunteers at the L.A. County jail complex and regularly sees people living with a serious mental illness struggle after they’re released.

“They are really not able to live independently, and we don’t provide a more structured supportive living environment for people who just keep recidivating through Twin Towers,” Morrison said.

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She said she believes more board and care homes may be one way to break that cycle. Those facilities help thousands of Angelenos by providing meals, helping with medications, and taking them to medical appointments. But lack of funding and other factors mean that hundreds have closed in recent years.

Morrison points to a recent study by the L.A. Housing Department, which estimated nearly 6,000 unsheltered people might find a board and care home useful.

That’s why Morrison, health care leaders, and outreach workers are calling on current St. Vincent owner and local billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong to commit to using the hospital to house hundreds of mental health care beds.

Morrison spoke at a press conference convened by L.A. City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who launched a petition urging Soon-Shiong to “to work with the City of Los Angeles, and/or Los Angeles County, on an agreement to reopen the hospital for use as an acute care facility for people experiencing homelessness.”

Mark Valentino, CEO of the L.A. Downtown Medical Center said his facility, a 269-bed acute care hospital in Echo Park specializes in in-patient psychiatric care. More than half of L.A. Downtown Medical Center’s beds are allocated for mental health care, Valentino told the press conference Tuesday.

“Unfortunately for the community of Los Angeles, these beds are always full,” Valentino said, adding that many of their patients are currently — or were recently — unhoused.

In an emailed statement, Soon-Shiong said he wasn’t informed of Tuesday’s press conference. “I agree that medical care and mental health services are important issues in confronting the homelessness crisis. I look forward to the opportunity to discuss this in-depth with members of the City Council,” Soon-Shiong said.

Soon-Shiong, who also owns Los Angeles Times, bought St. Vincent in 2020. The facility reopened later that year as part of an agreement with the state to treat COVID-19 patients, but the hospital is shuttered now.

What questions do you have about mental health in SoCal?
One of my goals on the mental health beat is to make the seemingly intractable mental health care system more navigable.

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