Compton Health Center Keeps Students in Class

Grand Opening of St. John’s Well Child & Family Center at Dominguez High School.

“Students from Dominguez High School, you now have no excuse for missing class for a doctor’s appointment,” Compton School board member Skyy Fisher told dozens of high school students at the opening of the St. John’s Well Child & Family Center at Dominguez High School recently.

The St. John’s Well Child & Family Center at Dominguez High School is one of eight new school-based health centers in the Second District, with on-site health care available not only to students but to the community at large. Now students are able to walk a few yards on campus to visit a brightly colored, full-scale health center complete with doctors, nurses, dentistry services and even a small-scale pharmacy.

“I’ll definitely come for the dental care and flu shots,” said Laura Olmos, a senior at Dominguez High School. “All students need health care. I think it’s going to be a big hit in our community.”

Jasmine Roby is a 17-year-old senior at Dominguez High School. She is studying to be a certified nursing assistant. “This center will help our community,” she said. “I’m going to volunteer to help in the clinic. We’ll have healthier students.”

Lack of easy access to health care can adversely impact a child’s education, according to S. Nomsa Khalfani, chief of Policy and Support Services at St. John’s Well Child & Family Center. Recently, administrators at Dominguez discovered a boy was missing days of school because he was sick but had not gone to the doctor because his family lacked insurance. The center, which has been operating on a part-time basis since September, was able to treat him and follow up with the family to make sure he was recovering.

“Enabling students, [or their parents] to have access to health care without missing school or work so they can go to the doctor is important,” said Khalfani. “Schools are a hub where families get resources and where students and families can get help quickly.”

Providing access to health care is a priority for Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who has secured $4.1 million in county funds and partnered with the Los Angeles, Compton and Lennox Unified School Districts to build the centers. At the centers, students and their families can be treated for acute illnesses, such as the flu, or chronic conditions, such as asthma and diabetes. They can receive pre-natal care, reproductive health care, immunizations, dental care, vision and treatment for hearing problems.

“Sick children cannot learn well,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “This is where easy access to medical care and preventing illnesses begins. Health is fundamentally important. And the more school based health centers that we build, the better this community will be.”

As part of a national emphasis on preventive care, nearly 2,000 school-based health centers have been opened nationwide, according to the most recent National Assembly on School-Based Health Care census. Los Angeles aims to be one of the leaders in the country.

“We really want to be seen as a medical home not just for students but for communities that we serve,” said Khalfani “Some people think of a school-based clinic as a nurse’s office. But this center is like walking into any other doctor’s office.”

Supervisors Call For Detailed Budget Breakdown Of Sheriff’s Medical Services To Inmates

With the goal of increasing accountability from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Medical Services Bureau, the Board of Supervisors Tuesday took the unprecedented step of requiring a detailed breakdown of the bureau’s budget and detailed enumeration of services it delivers to inmates.

Acting on a motion by Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, the board ordered the creation of a separate budget unit for the bureau in next year’s annual budget, insisting that its current method of accounting is insufficient.

“We need to know – taxpayers need to know — exactly what services are being provided by the Sheriff’s medical bureau; how the bureau is staffed with doctors and nurses relative to the number of patients treated and what services are being delivered at precisely what cost,” said Ridley-Thomas. “This is a question of both patient care and economic efficiency.”

The Sheriff’s medical services bureau screens approximately 144,000 inmates each year, and the Sheriff’s Department estimates that 60 percent of all inmates who enter the jails receive some medical services. Treatments include: primary care, general obstetrics, gynecology, specialty care, ophthalmology and dentistry. In addition to services provided by the Sheriff’s department, the departments of Health Services and Mental Health also treat inmates, with the cost for medical care totaling about $241 million annually, according to a review of the bureau by the Auditor-Controller.

This significant investment of taxpayer funds, however, is not carefully tracked. The Sheriff’s Department, could not provide the Auditor-Controller with detailed information about physician and nurse contacts with inmates or a detailed workload.

Serious lapses by the department in medical attention to inmates have resulted in millions of dollars of payouts from the county to inmates who received either poor treatment or none for serious conditions, incidents that, along with the Auditor-Controller’s report, have catalyzed the board to more rigorously scrutinize the bureau.

“The lack of workload data prevents the county from assessing the efficacy of the services being delivered to inmates and the appropriateness of the cost for these services—and that’s no way to run a department,” the Supervisor said.

A Plan of Action for Combating HIV

Last year, the voter mandate requiring porn actors to wear condoms when filming all but monopolized the public discussion about HIV and AIDS. Yet the rate of infection outside the porn industry far outstrips that within it, and the devastating consequences are affecting our most vulnerable population: young people.

In Los Angeles County, 25 percent of new HIV infections are happening to people between the ages 13-24.  Furthermore, 60 percent of these youth do not even know they are infected.  Among African-American males ages 15-29 who are infected, a staggering 91 percent do not know they are carrying the virus that causes HIV.  This  ignorance  has deadly repercussions —  not only for  youth who are becoming sexually active and who  may not know how HIV is transmitted, but also for women  in  relationships with men who, unbeknownst to them, also are having sex with men.

These facts prompted Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas to convene an HIV Roundtable  that brought together clinicians, professors, public health officials and researchers to discuss a proposed 2013 Strategic Plan to combat HIV/AIDS in the Second District.

“The rates of HIV contraction both in the county and the Second District are dismal,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas.  “We must address this issue head on by educating our youth and other highly affected groups, promoting testing and tackling the stigma that is too often attached to this issue. This is a healthcare crisis that needs to be taken very seriously.”

Among the ideas discussed during the roundtable is the plan to host a youth prevention conference in the Second District, with a series of speakers, panel discussions and some form of entertainment to begin educating and targeting this population.

Another key component of the strategic plan is to continue educating ministers and first ladies at local churches on HIV infection and prevention. Because this epidemic is affecting so many African American males who have sex with men, an essential part of the strategic plan includes addressing the issue of homophobia in order to reach these men and help them get the care that they need.

Dr. Wilbert Jordan, Medical Director of the Oasis Clinic noted that almost half of the teens he sees–46 percent of  adolescent clients–become infected after being  kicked out of home , saying their “moms  can’t  handle  their sexuality.”

“If   black  mothers  can  love  their sons  who are imprisoned  for  murdering  someone, they  should  be encouraged  to love their  kids  who  like someone of the same  sex,” Jordan  said.

The discussion is the first of many. The goal of the strategic plan is to promote policy that will have a lasting impact.

“I’m hoping to begin a discussion on this mission,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “I ask that we can come together to discuss this large issue from a broader perspective than our individual clinics and agencies. This group needs to stay focused and on task.”

Click here to download the PowerPoint presentation.

Combating HIV and AIDS in Los Angeles County

While much progress has been made in combating the Human Immune Deficiency Virus (HIV) and AIDS since it surfaced more than 30 years ago, it is still ravaging communities in Los Angeles County.

Los Angeles County has surpassed San Francisco as the hardest hit area on the West Coast. With more than 59,000 people infected with HIV and as many as 12,800 who are HIV-positive but don’t know it, Los Angeles ranks among the highest number of cases in the country.

It is an illness that continues to disproportionately impact predominantly low income, less educated Americans who are black and Latino. All the more alarming, roughly a third of all new HIV infections in Los Angeles County occur in youth ages 13-24 and 60 percent of these youth do not know the status of their infection.

The problem is so big that the White House has designated an office of National AIDS Policy to reduce the number of new infections by 25 percent by 2015 and to significantly increase education efforts so that fewer people contract the virus and more people are aware of their status.

As part of this effort, the White House’s Office on National AIDS Policy along with the Los Angeles County Commission on HIV recently held a forum on the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.  Grant Colfax, Director of the White House Office of AIDS Policy, noted that there needs to be a greater effort to keep infected individuals in care in order to lower the chances that a person will become very sick and/or pass on the infection. The event brought together researchers, advocates, outreach workers, healthcare workers and health care providers to try to find solutions to the problem.  Click here to download the PowerPoint presentation.

“We must work together to create ground-breaking strategies to combat this infection as well as to combat the underlying social, economic, and demographic factors that increase certain people’s risk of contracting HIV,” said Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who attended the event. Chairman Ridley-Thomas called for a cultural shift in thinking about combating HIV/AIDS. He mentioned his work with the Ministers and First Ladies of various churches in the Second District. This innovative partnership will allow HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) related materials to be disseminated throughout each church’s congregation, reaching people who may have had little awareness or access to information about HIV/AIDS and STI’s. He spoke about the efforts of the Second District to combat stigma, discrimination, and inequalities suffered by people with the infection. “HIV-positive people still struggle to obtain and keep housing due to unfair treatment and incarcerated populations often do not receive adequate HIV treatment and care,” he noted. This effort includes not only the Board of Supervisors but also the Department of Public Health, the Department of Health Services, the HIV Commission and County providers all working together to combat HIV/AIDS.

“The National HIV/AIDS Strategy provides us with a framework to more effectively combat these illnesses,” said the Supervisor. “This partnership as well as the strong ties with community providers allows for increased access to care to every individual while we work together to reduce HIV-related health disparities.”

For more information, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website has many helpful articles and resources. If there are any questions regarding HIV/AIDS services in Los Angeles County, please visit the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Division of HIV and STD Programs website: In addition, here is the link on the peer to peer awareness campaign led students and the Los Angeles Unified School District (Project U):