Community Celebrates New MLK Outpatient Center

Several hundred people turned out for the celebratory ribbon cutting at the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Outpatient Center, ushering in a new era of healthcare for residents in the Watts/Willowbrook area.

The festivities included tours of the $172 million-county center, live salsa music and health resource booths to show off another jewel on the MLK Campus. The Outpatient Center is an important part of the county’s plan to deliver quality primary care and preventive services to keep people healthy. It is adjacent to the new MLK Community Hospital, which is set to open next year.

The center and hospital are part of a wellness village that also includes the Center for Public Health, which opened in October 2011, and provides immunizations as well as testing for sexually transmitted diseases and tuberculosis. A psychiatric urgent care facility that will offer mental health services to residents is scheduled to open in the fall.

“Community transformation and healing is not for the faint of heart,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who pledged in 2008 when he was elected to the Board of Supervisors to bring a new, state-of-the-art hospital to the community. “New buildings alone are not enough…Today we stand at the center of a circle of community wellness. It starts with each one of us, one heartbeat at a time.”

At the ribbon cutting, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas was joined on stage by philanthropist/doctor Patrick Soon-Shiong, ABC-7 television anchor and emcee Marc Brown, Chief Executive of the Outpatient Center Cynthia Oliver, Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services Mitch Katz as well as community activist and icon, Sweet Alice Harris. Harris noted that good medical care was desperately needed in the area.

“I’ve lived here 60 years. I’ve seen people die in their homes for not having anywhere to go,” she said, telling the audience a story of a little girl with asthma who died on her way to a faraway hospital when there was no medical care nearby. “We have needed this medical center. We needed it badly. It looks like Beverly Hills. We got the best.”

With its bright terrazzo floors and gleaming steel and glass picture windows, the Outpatient Center will open to the public June 17. Constructed by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, it boasts 70 specialty clinics, a range of services from pediatric and obstetric care to orthopedics and neurology, as well as a blood infusion bay for chemotherapy patients, a stroke rehabilitation suite and an oral surgery center.

There are five operating rooms for outpatient surgical procedures, in addition to rehabilitation services and a wide array of diagnostic services. The urgent care center will operate seven days a week, 16 hours-a-day for urgent needs.

The ribbon cutting was also noteworthy for the students at King/Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science across the street. Since he was a freshman, Isai Rea, has been eagerly watching the construction of the Outpatient Center. Now a 17-year-old junior, he hopes to have a shot an interning with the nurses and doctors on site so he can gain experience in internal or sports medicine.

“This new site is modern and state of the art,” he said as he waited for a tour. “It is so beautiful and it’s great that I get to see it up and running before I graduate from high school.”

For Hilda Alvarez, having a state of the art Outpatient Center has meant the difference between life and death. Suffering from cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis, Alvarez said she hoped that all residents will benefit from the new facility.

“I hope that with this testimony, people will come to this new center,” she said. “I was not from this community. But I am now.”

Continuing Life-Saving Services at St. Francis Medical Center

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas applauded Attorney General Kamala Harris’ decision ensuring that life-saving and emergency medical services continue in the Southeast Los Angeles area for at least a decade after the sale of St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood to Prime Healthcare Services, Inc.

The Attorney General announced Friday that Prime, the intended buyer of six Daughters of Charity Health System hospitals including St. Francis, must agree to a 10-year condition to operate a Level II Trauma Center, retain emergency rooms, psychiatric services and other medical services related to Level II Trauma. The hospital must also give a one-year mandatory written legal notice of any changes in services after 10 years.

In addition, the local governing board for Saint Francis must include one member designated by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors; provide a total of $10 million in community benefit programs for 11 years vetted by the governing board and participate in Medi-Cal and Medicare programs.

“While we are still learning the full details of the Attorney General’s action, I am pleased to hear that there will not be a disruption in life-saving services,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who sent a letter to the Attorney General in January expressing concern about maintaining critical services. “We must ensure that the community is protected.”

Both the Attorney General and the Los Angeles County’s Department of Health Services have released reports confirming the crucial role St. Francis Medical Center plays as one of the busiest trauma centers in the county. In addition, a related January report by the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services found that the new private non-profit MLK Community Hospital — set to open later this year – could not fill any trauma care service delivery gap without a significant service expansion and financial investment for additional hospital staff and infrastructure, including the construction of new inpatient beds and operating rooms.

Improving Community Wellness: To Help Everyone

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On a busy stretch off of La Brea Boulevard, Los Angeles residents can walk into a nicely decorated, serene environment that could be mistaken for a spa.

But To Help Everyone (T.H.E.) Health and Wellness medical and dental facility is really a haven for the sick. At the entrance, painted a soft blue, patients are welcomed by the motto decorating a wall: healing the body and raising the spirit.

“People come in here not feeling very well,” Kimmella Collins, an administrator of the facility said at a recent ribbon cutting ceremony. “So we like to make our center inviting and comfortable so at least they can feel a little better.”

Founded in 1974, T.H.E. celebrated their 40th anniversary last year and has seen exponential growth, opening 10 new buildings in the last five years. They have two school-based health centers: Crenshaw High School and Lennox School District. They operate a mobile van at Dorsey High School.

photo“Expansion of new health centers provides a critical opportunity to focus on prevention and community wellness,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who has long been a supporter of T.H.E.’s health mode. “This approach to healthcare has a very meaningful impact on the future of this community.”

In May, T.H.E. will be opening another new clinic in the Lennox/Hawthorne area. The La Brea Wellness Center is 5,500 sq. ft. with 8 exam rooms and 2 dental chairs.

“I believe that healthcare is a fundamental right not a privilege,” said Senator Holly Mitchell, who also attended the recent ceremony. “We must expand and grow access to services throughout Los Angeles County.”

Added Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, who is now a member of the California State Assembly Committee on Health: “This facility is the citadel of health. We are raising the health IQ of the community.”

Ensuring Life-Saving Services throughout L.A. County

AA043595With the pending sale of St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is now looking into a backup plan and potential funding options to ensure life-saving services continue in the Southeast Los Angeles area and that adequate trauma care continues countywide.

On Tuesday, the Board asked the Department of Health Services to look into what resources it could use, including funds from Measure B, to fill the need if St. Francis’ trauma center is shuttered. Measure B, a special parcel tax passed by voters in 2002, created a fund to preserve a county-wide system of trauma centers, emergency medical services and bioterrorism responses.

The Attorney General, Kamala Harris, is currently reviewing the sale of six Daughters of Charity Health System hospitals including St. Francis.

“Regardless of the Attorney General’s action, it is critical that the County continue to explore all alternatives to ensure there is not a disruption in life-saving services,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who authored the motion.

The Attorney General and Los Angeles County’s Department of Health Services have both released reports confirming the crucial role St. Francis Medical Center plays as one of the busiest trauma centers in the county. In addition, a related January report by the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services found that the new private non-profit MLK Community Hospital — set to open later this year – could not fill any trauma care service delivery gap without a significant service expansion and financial investment for additional hospital staff and infrastructure, including the construction of new inpatient beds and operating rooms.  Even then, it would take years to meet state certification and licensing requirements.

“At a minimum, we need to maintain the level of services that St. Francis provides the community,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “We will look at every available option to ensure that the community is protected.”

Creating a New Hub for Child Safety

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Continuing the push to protect children in the child welfare system, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has approved the development of a comprehensive plan to build a new Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Hub in Willowbrook.

The new MLK Medical Hub’s mission will be to have medical and child welfare professionals provide medical and mental health services for children at risk of abuse and neglect. The MLK Hub will be the first of the county’s six hubs to receive an expansion so they can provide more intensive services to at risk children, especially those under two years of age.

The plan for the new MLK Hub, which will be located on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus, is expected to include funding options, a timeline for relocation and space where behavioral mental health services can be provided on site. The current, 41-year-old location for the MLK Medical Hub is in terrible condition, with warped floorboards, a leaking roof and dysfunctional heating and air cooling systems.

The improvement of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Hub was initiated as part of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection’s recommendations.

“We are determined to make child safety a top priority,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who authored the motion. “We must support and protect the most vulnerable in our society. This hub will create a safety net for these children so they will be kept out of harm’s way.”

Established in June 2013, the Blue Ribbon Commission was chaired by David Sanders, of the Casey Family Programs foundation, and was made up of 10 child welfare experts appointed by each member of the Board of Supervisors. In June 2014, the commission presented a list of 40 recommendations that would improve child welfare services, including giving more money to relatives who care for children in foster care, providing better medical care for children removed from their homes and improving medical screening of infants who may be at risk.

Looking Beyond Disabilities

 


A working mom, Maisha Hughes worried about sending her 9-year-old daughter Asantewa to an after school program. Asantewa has autism and finding the right program was always a challenge—until she connected with AbilityFirst, a non-profit organization that provides programs for adults and children with disabilities.

Not only is the AbilityFirst center on Crenshaw Boulevard brand new, it is literally around the corner from Hughes’ home in Inglewood.

“It has been very helpful and convenient,” said Hughes. “If it wasn’t for AbilityFirst, I wouldn’t have another option. I am extremely blessed to have this.”

6,500 square foot Joan and Harry A. Mier Center

During the week, a school bus drops off children at the brand new 6,500 square foot Joan and Harry A. Mier Center after school where they can socialize, play outdoors, cook in a chef’s kitchen, draw, paint and even swim at the new indoor pool.

The center and its swimming pool is the only one of its kind serving children who live in South Los Angeles, Inglewood, Hawthorne and Gardena. During the summer, the center offers full day activities such as swimming lessons and even going to the movies.

“For more than 88 years, we have been looking beyond disabilities, focusing on capabilities, and expanding possibilities,” said Lori Gangemi, President and CEO of AbilityFirst. “We offer a broad range of programs and services to help children and adults with physical and developmental disabilities realize their full potential throughout their lives.”

AbilityFirst has 25 locations, including 10 group homes, three work centers, one camp for adults and children with disabilities, eight community centers and an Ability First Employment Services office.

“Simply put, AbilityFirst’s enrichment programs are first rate,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose office contributed $50,000 to complete the building and has a courtyard named in his honor. “They focus on what is possible and that philosophy has changed the lives of countless people with disabilities and their families. It has been a pleasure supporting them.”

Board Unanimously Approves Consolidating Health Departments

 

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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved looking into consolidating the Department of Health Services, Department of Public Health and Department of Mental Health into a single integrated department. In addition, the board is considering whether to transfer medical services for inmates currently overseen by the Sheriff’s Department to the Department of Health Services.

The board has asked for a report back in early spring on how this consolidation would occur and how services would be provided without compromising quality.

“I do see it as three independent departments working together, each learning the best from one another,” said Mitch Katz, director of the Department of Health Services. “This is just about providing better services where we can.”

After more than two hours of public testimony from individuals concerned about any changes, the Supervisors clarified that the consolidation would not diminish much needed mental health services.

“We will find the best way to find our clients and families the services they need,” said Marvin Southard, director of the Department of Mental Health. “LA County will continue to be a national leader in wellness and recovery.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas stressed that any changes would be done with public input and through a transparent public process.

“This is not about cutting dollars or services,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “This is about maximizing the quality of care for the people of L.A. County who depend on these critical services. It is important we consider consolidation of all health services that the County provides, including the health care provided to our inmates.”

He noted that Los Angeles is the only county in the state in which the Sheriff’s Department provides health services to inmates. The goal of this motion, which is supported by the Department of Health Services and the Sheriff’s Department, is to improve integration, coordination of care, collaboration and quality of care for inmates.

Betsy Pfromm, president of the Los Angeles Child Guidance Clinic, a mental health provider near USC, urged the board to hold forums with constituents who want to be heard on the issue.

“As a former public mental health director, I was able to meet directly with the elected officials and keep them informed as to ensure accountability,” she said.

Health Technology Revolutionizes Patient Care

Los Angeles County’s Department of Health Services is installing a new countywide electronic health record system that could be a model for health care organizations across the country.

“Our patients simply need and deserve world class technology to protect their health,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

The system, called the Online Real-time Centralized Health Information Database, or ORCHID, is the first uniform, standardized, and fully integrated electronic health record technology to be released countywide.

“Having one system will bring us together as a single integrated system,” DHS Director Mitchell Katz said.

With ORCHID, nurses will be able to use bar code technology when administering medications to patients. Bar code scanners will be available in patient rooms, allowing bedside bar code scanning. The nurse scans the bar code on the patient’s wrist and the bar coded medication label, then administers the medication. Among other benefits, the ORCHID system will help verify that the right medication was given to the right patient in the right dose at the right time.

Each patient will have a unique bar code that exists only on his or her wristband. The system alerts the nurse if the medication order is expired, discontinued or if the wrong medication is given to a patient. The bar code technology will reduce the possibility of patient care errors with every pill.

“The new system will result in improved quality of care, improved efficiency of care, and an innovative system that can serve as a model across the country,” the Supervisor said.

Recently, the pharmacy team in Los Angeles County completed the task of scanning every unique medication for the Department of Health Services pharmacies to capture the bar codes into the ORCHID database. The process, completed by hand, included 50,000 scans.

The new system will launch on November 1 at Harbor UCLA Medical Center and at the Martin Luther King Jr. Outpatient Center on February 1, 2015. The initial launch will be followed by the LAC+USC Medical Center on May 1 2015, the High Desert Regional Health Center Cluster on August 1, 2015, the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center on November 1, 2015, and the Olive View-UCLA Medical Center Cluster on February 1, 2016.

“We are dismantling the digital divide of health care that exists in our communities,” the Supervisor said.

New Plan to End Youth Homelessness Unveiled

More than 200 leaders, advocates, and youth packed Holman United Methodist Church in West Adams recently to discuss potential solutions for ending youth homelessness in South Los Angeles. This group, the South Los Angeles Homeless and Foster Youth Collaborative, took the lead on fostering community dialogue and organizing the breakfast to unveil the “Homeless No More Community Plan.”

According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, 8,713 homeless are under the age of 24 and 4,046 are between the ages of 18-24. South Los Angeles has the second highest concentration with 2,016 youth, representing 23 percent of the homeless youth population in Los Angeles County.

In response to the need for strategic interventions to lower these numbers, leaders, advocates, and youth formed the collaborative to find solutions. A year ago, after the collective’s first summit, the idea of a community plan was conceived to better understand the problems foster youth face and potential solutions to youth homelessness in South Los Angeles.

“No single organization is responsible for any major social problem, nor can any single organization cure it,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Latrina Wilcher, former foster youth & owner of Sweet Tri Pastries

Latrina Wilcher, 26, was born in South Los Angeles. She was at the Holman organizing breakfast to work as a caterer, and shared her story of homelessness. Wilcher said she was taken away from her mother when she was two-years-old, and after passing through a series of group and foster homes, she became homeless.

“When you turn 18, they kick you out,” she said. “But it takes time to get back on your feet especially when you’ve had a horrible childhood.”

Luckily, she met Janet Kelly, the executive director of Sanctuary of Hope and the co-founder of the collaborative. Kelly helped enroll Wilcher in a mentorship program and start her own catering business.

For the past year, with support from the Office Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, leaders from across business, law enforcement, government, health, academic, interfaith, philanthropic and non-profit sectors as well as former homeless youth engaged in a series of meetings and committed themselves to identifying a plan to prevent vulnerable youth from becoming homeless. The meetings resulted in the “Homeless No More” community plan, a roadmap to move forward in the years ahead.

“Our youth may be homeless, but they are not hopeless,” said Reverend Kelvin Sauls, the pastor of Holman United Methodist Church and the chair of the collaborative.

The collaborative identified six strategic objectives to be implemented by 2019:

  • Improve the coordination of services, simplify access, and eliminate barriers
  • Increase and improve housing options for homeless youth in South LA.
  • Coordinate and enhance critical support systems and services targeting homeless TAY and foster care youth.
  • Improve public policies and systems that address or omit homeless and at-risk youth.
  • Produce and compile data and research that best describes the opportunities, needs, and gaps of homeless and at-risk youth in the South LA region.
  • Expand leadership, collaborative will, and service capacity of South South LA service providers, the faith-based community, community leaders and Transitions Age Youth.

“This plan provides hope for a community that has lacked resources,” said Gerald Thompson, co-founder and director of the collaborative.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas speaks at unveiling of “Homeless No More Community Plan”

“Our young people deserve permanent solutions such as housing, access to a shower, clean clothes, and career opportunities. This is a bold step forward, but much work remains to deliver those solutions,” the Supervisor said.

According to LAHSA Commissioner Booker Pearson, 70% of individuals in California prisons were in foster care at one time. Prison costs an average of about $47,000 per year per inmate in California.

“Think it’s cheaper to house a kid then let him go to foster care and wind up in prison?” Pearson asked rhetorically. “This is not only the right and moral thing to do. It’s economic suicide to ignore our homeless children.”

For more information, visit the collective’s website at www.southlatay.org.

Board Approves $20 Million for Diversion

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The Board of Supervisors Tuesday voted to set aside $20 million to fund mental health services, substance abuse treatment, job counseling, as well as supportive housing for mentally ill offenders as an alternative to incarceration.

“We know that jail is not the best place to treat the mentally ill and substance abusers,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who sponsored the motion setting aside the funds. “Jail only makes the mentally ill sicker, and this County has not been able to figure out how to keep them stabilized and healthy in an environment that only makes them worse.”

The mentally ill are jailed at higher rates than others, and those numbers are outpacing the County’s ability to properly treat them. Diversion, or rerouting mentally ill offenders to treatment instead of incarceration, is intended to stabilize them and reduce the likelihood of recidivism. Many of the mentally ill people that wind up in County jails have co-occurring disorders and are homeless.

“Unnecessarily jailing people with mental illness is not only expensive, because they can be treated for a fraction of the cost using community-based programs, but it is also harsh and insensitive, and dare I say, inhumane,” the Supervisor said. “Having an untreated mental illness should not be a crime.”

The County of Los Angeles has been under a Memorandum of Agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice since 2002 and could face a consent decree because the jails were not designed to accommodate or deliver treatment to inmates with severe mental illnesses.

Today, the Board of Supervisors joined with District Attorney Jackie Lacey, County mental and public health departments and the Sheriff’s Department as a financial partner committed to diversion. In 2015, the board will vote on whether to build a $2 billion jail. By setting aside $20 million in a separate fund pending receipt of the District Attorney’s report, the Board has expressed a commitment to righting this wrong.

In the Second Supervisorial District efforts to expand diversion are already underway. The MLK Mental Health Urgent Care Center opened its doors earlier this month on the Martin Luther King Medical Campus. The center is a one-stop shop for families, individuals and law enforcement to bring a person suffering acute distress or an episode related to mental illness. Patients will receive a variety of services including psychiatric evaluation and assessment, crisis intervention, substance abuse counseling and medication support from an on-site team of experts from the county’s departments of mental health, social services, health services and public health.

For more information on the MLK Mental Health Urgent Care Center, please visit:

http://ridley-thomas.lacounty.gov/index.php/mlk-mental-health/