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Hepatitis C is a growing concern in Los Angeles’ jails, but it can be prevented.

Hepatitis C is a growing crisis within the Los Angeles County jail system, with thousands of inmates living with the potentially deadly but curable disease. As a former doctor within the system, I witnessed firsthand the lack of adequate treatment for hepatitis C patients and the dire need for a more comprehensive approach to combating this infection.

The prevalence of hepatitis C within the jails is alarmingly high, with more than a third of inmates testing positive for the virus. This indicates that the number of individuals carrying the infection within the nation’s largest jail system is likely in the thousands. While hepatitis C treatment has evolved significantly over the years, with modern medicine offering a cure for almost every patient, the current system in place within the jails is failing to provide proper care and prevention measures.

Untreated hepatitis C continues to claim the lives of approximately 14,000 Americans every year, surpassing the mortality rate of HIV. With the availability of effective treatments, these deaths are entirely preventable. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends universal screening for adults to detect and treat hepatitis C promptly.

Despite the importance of monitoring and managing contagion within correctional facilities, the screening and treatment of hepatitis C in L.A.’s jails remain inadequate. Medical providers often overlook the disease during initial screenings, and treatment is only considered for patients with advanced liver fibrosis, delaying the necessary care for many inmates.

The reluctance to treat hepatitis C within the jails appears to stem from financial concerns and inertia, as the medications are costly and under patent. However, the decreasing cost of these drugs has made treatment more accessible in other states and countries. Furthermore, treating hepatitis C is cost-effective in the long run, as it reduces the risk of severe health complications such as cirrhosis and liver cancer.

While some progress has been made in recent years, such as expanding treatment eligibility criteria and streamlining the medication delivery process, there is still a significant gap in screening and treatment within the jail system. Illicit drug use and unsanitary practices among inmates continue to facilitate the spread of hepatitis C, perpetuating the cycle of infection.

It is essential to address the hepatitis C crisis within L.A.’s jails with a strategic and coordinated plan of testing and treatment. By focusing on eliminating the virus within the incarcerated population, we can significantly reduce infection rates both within and beyond the jails. The current state of affairs is unacceptable in 2024, and urgent action is needed to prevent needless deaths and curb the spread of hepatitis C.

In conclusion, hepatitis C should be the next major pathogen to be targeted for eradication, and Los Angeles’ jails present a crucial battleground in this fight. By implementing effective screening and treatment protocols, we can make significant progress in combating this disease and improving public health outcomes. The time to act is now, and the lives of thousands of individuals within the jail system depend on our commitment to addressing this pressing issue.

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Forest Lawn Drive now free of RV encampment and parking

Nancy Sexton was thrilled when city crews cleared out more than 50 RVs in December that had been parked near her business for months, blocking parking spots and leaving behind trash and waste on Forest Lawn Drive.

Then she realized the long stretch of road near Barham Boulevard in the Hollywood Hills was suddenly off limits for not just parked RVs, but all parked vehicles. Much of the curb was painted red. No parking signs lined the sidewalk.

“It’s a dumb decision,” said Sexton, who owns the Muse Rooms, which offers leased office spaces. “It’s frustrating.”

The more than 50 RVs, which had been stationed along the winding road for months as a semi-permanent living encampment, were removed in December as part of the city’s operation known as Inside Safe. One goal of the program, which is part of Mayor Karen Bass’ initiative to bring people living on the streets indoors, is to end the cycle of homeless encampments being cleared by the city only to return a few weeks later.

But days after the RVs were removed, Sexton said, the curb was painted red and parking was limited. The new red zone is about a quarter mile long, running between Warner Bros. Studios’ Gate 9 entrance and North Coyote Canyon Drive.

The areas that do allow parking, meanwhile, have two-hour limits.

City officials also said the decision to restrict parking was done out of fire safety concerns, not to keep the RVs from resettling along the road. Sexton has her doubts.

The lack of parking along the street suddenly imposed a new, unexpected expense on her clients, prompting some to look elsewhere. The red curb has also become an irritation for some students and workers at the New York Film Academy and businesses nearby.

A road with RVs lining its right side.

RVs are parked on Forest Lawn Drive on June 27, 2023, in Burbank.

(David McNew/Getty Images)

Since the no-parking signs went up, Sexton said, she’s lost two regular members and two potential clients. All of them had aired concern about the lack of street parking and the added expense of paying $12 a day at the parking structure on site.

The parking fee, Sexton said, doubled the monthly costs for some members.

“I didn’t know how much of a problem it was going to be until there were people saying, ‘I can’t pay $12 a day,’ ” she said. “I’m really feeling it now.”

The situation highlights some of the unintended results as city officials look to address homelessness and the concerns of businesses and homeowners affected by makeshift encampments, whether they involve tents, vehicles, or both.

RV encampments have sprung up across the city amid a housing crisis that has left many people priced out of permanent homes. Local officials have looked for ways to address the issue, including new regulations that have targeted overnight RV parking.

According to the mayor’s office, the Inside Safe program has addressed 39 encampments so far, moving more than 2,400 people into interim housing and an additional 440 into permanent housing since December 2022.

Bass spokesperson Zach Seidl said the RVs that were removed from Forest Lawn Drive were themselves causing parking issues in the area, as well as raising other significant safety and public health concerns.

Members of the surrounding community have said removing the RVs “has helped on all three fronts,” Seidl said in a statement. “This operation has saved lives.

Stella Stahl, spokesperson for Councilmember Nithya Raman, said the city has helped many of the RV residents along Forest Lawn Drive to find housing indoors.

In a statement, Stahl credited the decision to limit parking to a request by the Los Angeles Fire Department, which called the area a “high fire severity zone.” A 2019 brush fire in the area burned more than 30 acres and threatened homes and businesses.

In a Sept. 19, 2023, letter, LAFD Assistant Chief Dean Zipperman asked the city Department of Transportation to install “Tow Away No Stopping Any Time” restrictions on the road due to the stopped and parked vehicles there.

To avoid the hassle of looking for parking, cinematography students Sanchin Vinay, Yifan Xiang, and Davide Picci carpool to their classes at the New York Film Academy, which shares a building with the Muse Rooms. Eliminating the RVs has opened some spots to them, although Picci said they’d been able to find spaces on the street before — “really far down.”

A couch on a sidewalk near an RV.

The curb along Forest Lawn Drive, where someone has left a couch.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Sometimes they pay the $12 for the daily parking to avoid being late for class. Carpooling helps cushion the cost.

Leslie Bates, a film production instructor, said she heard of students and faculty members having “volatile” interactions with the RV residents.

Now that the RVs have

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