In Sacramento County, 2021 was an unprecedented year for loss of life in this region. The Sacramento County Coroner had more overall deaths reported to their office than any other year in history – 8,677 deaths reported. Sacramento County similarly saw an increase in the deaths of its unhoused population.
Note: The Coroner’s Office does not receive a report of every county resident’s death. For example, deaths signed off by a supervising doctor are not reported to the Coroner. Additionally, natural deaths occurring in a hospital or medical facility and/or under a hospice physician’s care are not coroner cases which require a coroner death investigation.
The Coroner releases a report every year of the deaths, causes and some demographics for people experiencing homelessness at the time of death. In 2021, 199 deaths were reported to the coroner’s office that were investigated and determined to be people who were experiencing homeless. While this is an increase from the years prior, it is not the same incremental increase as the overall increase in the homeless population, based on the most recent point in time count.
The causes of death among the unhoused population vary, but overwhelmingly, the causes are unnatural – death by substance use, vehicular or homicide. Decedents were overwhelmingly male, and there was a disproportionate number of black and Hispanic deaths compared to the overall homeless population demographics.
Substance abuse continues to be the leader in untimely deaths of the unhoused population at nearly half of all deaths in 2021, as compared to just 3 percent of the overall county population.
Sacramento County continues to invest in existing and new programs to help meet the needs of the homeless population. In Fiscal Year 21/22, it is estimated that Sacramento County committed approximately $181 million in funding to provide services and supports to those experiencing homelessness. Much of this funding is on-going annual commitments to current and new programs that provide outreach, shelter, behavioral health treatment and rehousing services to those living unhoused and help mitigate the impacts to the community. Not only does the County fund 1,300 indoor shelter beds on any given night, but continues to fund new and diversified programs such as:
- Increasing the offerings in 2022/23 to those experiencing behavioral health, both mental health and substance abuse, crises:
- $10 million to procure an additional 156 beds for Substance Use Disorder residential treatment
- $5 million for behavioral health crisis stabilization units required in MediCal
- $7.5 million in Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) funds and federal match for additional Full Service Partnerships
- The County has approved two new-concept locations for Safe Stay Communities, adding another 165 indoor beds that provide privacy, dignity and a place for people to receive services to end their homelessness.
- The County added 11 new behavioral health staff to the Encampment Service Teams to connect people to mental health and substance abuse services.
- Allocated $1 million in the 2022/23 budget to expand the scattered site sheltering program.
- Allocated $10 million in ARPA funding for a Landlord Engagement and Assistance Program (LEAP), which will fund re-housing of 300+ households from shelters and encampments.
- Allocated $28 million in MHSA funding since 2017 through the MHSA Housing Program and No Place Like Home Program.
- The County has 221 housing units funded through MHSA and an additional 234 coming in the next two years.
The solutions to end homelessness are complicated and multi-faceted, and there is no “one size fits all,” but through the hard work and dedication of the County, our cities and our partners, we are committed to work with compassion and urgency to decrease deaths in our homeless population.