Bass appoints LA's 1st deputy mayor of homelessness and community health

Bass appoints LA's 1st deputy mayor of homelessness and community health

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass announced the appointment of Dr. Etsemaye Agonafer as the city's first deputy mayor of homelessness and community health.

Agonafer will focus on improving the coordination and delivery of social, health and behavioral services to homeless people and those at risk of becoming homeless. She will be tasked with building a team and leading efforts on housing and health outcomes for homeless Angelenos.

"We must continue to address this homelessness crisis with urgency and comprehensive strategies that work," Bass said in a statement. "We know that health, both physical and behavioral, is a vital part of bringing stability to unhoused Angelenos and Dr. Agonafer's diverse experience and deep understanding of health care and homelessness in Southern California will be a crucial step forward in addressing the homelessness crisis and supporting those with health challenges."

Agonafer began working with Bass' office in May 2023, serving as the community health advisor as part of the Office of Housing and Homelessness Solutions. During that time, she supported the Bass' Inside Safe initiatives and designed a substance-use disorder pilot program for people in the city's interim housing sites.

According to the mayor's office, Agonafer has experience in advancing health equity and justice for vulnerable populations because of her work as an internal medicine physician, educator and community researcher.

Agonafer previously served as an assistant professor in the Department of Health System Science at the Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine in Pasadena.

In 2021, she was appointed as a White House Fellow in the Biden Administration and was placed in the Office of the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In addition to her policy work, Agonafer provided clinical care for individuals entering and leaving one of the nation's largest jails, in the Inmate Reception Center at the Los Angeles County Twin Towers Correctional Facility.

She has a master of science degree in health policy and management from UCLA, where she was also a national clinician scholar. Agonafer completed her internal medicine residency and chief residency at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Agonafer earned a B.S. in biochemistry from USC, and a master of public health and M.D. from the UCLA/Charles R. Drew University PRIME-LA dual-degree program.

"Housing and health care are essential to preventing and solving homelessness," Chief of Housing and Homelessness Solutions Lourdes Castro Ramirez said in a statement.

"This is why we are thrilled to have Dr. Agonafer's expertise and leadership as we work together to bring an even greater focus to the mayor's mission to connect unhoused Angelenos with coordinated supportive care and services that lead to positive health outcomes, stability, and permanent homes," she added.