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2022 Orange County's Homeless Death Review Committee Report

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Orange County’s Homeless Death Review Committee issued its second report today, reviewing deaths of people experiencing homelessness in 2022. 

The Coroner Division of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department led the Homeless Death Review Committee, commissioned by Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes in January 2022. The Committee includes broad representation of technical experts from county agencies, municipal police departments, hospitals, and non-profits.

The Committee met to explore the root causes of homeless deaths to determine what, if any, factors contributing to the deaths were preventable.

The 2022 report’s findings show that deaths among people experiencing homelessness continue to rise, increasing from 395 in 2021 to 496 in 2022, an increase of 25.6 percent.

In addition to the increase in the total number of deaths among people experiencing homelessness, the Committee found that accidental deaths continue to be the leading manner of death, surpassing natural deaths. In 2022, of the 324 accidental deaths, 209 are specifically due to fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid. Comparatively in 2018, just 12 deaths of people experiencing homeless were fentanyl-related. 

“The dramatic rise of fentanyl-related deaths among people experiencing homelessness continues to be a cause of concern,” said Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Don Barnes. “We are addressing fentanyl through enforcement actions against traffickers, the Above the Influence education program in schools, and through the Medication Assisted Treatment program for inmates in our county jails.  I also continue to advocate for state and federal legislation that has been proposed and will assist our local efforts.”

In 2023, Sheriff Barnes sponsored AB 271, authored by Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, which will permit data sharing among mortality review committees. The legislation was signed into law and went into effect in January 2024. This will provide the Homeless Death Review Committee the ability to share more data, allowing for a more detailed analysis in next year’s report. 

“I appreciate the Committee’s report and recommendations,” said Sheriff Barnes. “I look forward to the comprehensive review we will be able to see next year and how it will help us identify, address and mitigate deaths of people experiencing homelessness.”

Click here to read the 2022 report.