- Second District
For nearly a decade, creating and expanding school based health centers has been a priority for Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. As a state legislator, Ridley-Thomas authored several bills in support of school based health centers and now as a Los Angeles County Supervisor, he has worked with many partners to build 12 new school-based health centers in the Second District. At these centers, students and their families are offered both physical and mental health services in one place. The centers offer prevention and wellness close to where people live, work and go to school. Considering that thousands of students have limited, inadequate or no regular access to preventative health care, the school-based health center model will impact the way healthcare is delivered.
Ask a student attending college about the cost of higher education and they will likely attest to the mounting debt and financial burden that comes along with attending a university.
But for some students attending Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, the financial weight is about to get a lot lighter thanks to a $1 million donation from Joe Adams, Ray Charles’ former manager and his wife Emma. The donation is equivalent to 100- $10,000 scholarships - the largest one-time individual gift in the school’s history.
Charles R. Drew President David Carlisle says he is grateful for the gift and recognizes the positive effect the scholarships will have on the students.
“The more scholarships we can give out, the less their educational debt and the less dependent they are for borrowing money on their education,” he said. “Thousands of lives will be impacted by this contribution- including students, patients, and members of the community that we serve.”
Angela Minniefield, Vice President of Strategic Advancement at the university agreed.
“This is a tremendous investment in our students,” she said, noting that approximately 78 percent of Charles Drew students qualify for financial aid. “These funds will help to retain our excellent students that experience financial obstacles and help them maintain their commitment to serving the underserved.”
Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who represents the area where the university is located, said the gift will help scores of Charles Drew students contribute to the future Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus. The campus, which will house a new hospital and comprehensive health center, will bring health and wellness to a community that has gone on too long without a large health service provider.
“The scholarships will help countless students achieve their dreams of becoming doctors, nurses and experts in the medical community,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “That’s something to celebrate.”
Read the Los Angeles Times story about the $1- million donation here…
A former basketball player and a physician, Toni Yancey was not one to sit passively behind a desk. In fact, it was a rare occasion to find her behind a desk. Instead, she was more likely to be found stretching, waving her arms, exhaling loudly and jumping up and down. For Yancey, getting a bit of exercise into her day, every day, was a mission.
When she began noticing health disparities among minorities, the lack of available workout space and the reduction of recess in schools, she decided to do something.
So she created “Instant Recess®”, a program that calls for a grassroots approach to “making America healthier 10 minutes at a time.” Her idea to incorporate brief bouts of physical activity into daily routine whether at school or work or worship, earned her numerous awards including the Pioneering Innovation Award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
To coax people off their chairs and couches, she would often remind them to recall those memories of childhood where every student in class anxiously looks up at the clock, waiting for that recess bell to ring. She called that memory the “wave of exhilaration, the sheer release, the transformation of fidgeting.”
“If you can recapture even a little of the joy of unbridled movement,” she told an audience during a TED speech in Manhattan Beach last year, “Maybe there is hope for the couch potatoes.”
But it was not always clear that she would become a doctor or a fitness advocate. Born and raised in Kansas City, KS, she was a renaissance woman who, at 6’2”, played as a Division 1 basketball player during her undergraduate years at Northwestern University and was a model before going to medical school.
Her mission was personal.
Her family had a long history of arthritis and Alzheimer’s. She saw the effects of a sedentary lifestyle in this country, where nearly one-third of Americans are obese. African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans have higher rates of obesity and illnesses like diabetes related to weight issues, than others in the population. Prevention is what drove her to her life’s work.
She spoke eloquently and passionately about how decreasing the waist line has a positive effect on appetite, on attitude and on productivity. She even made a cost/benefit analysis for the value of exercise on the bottom line.
“The spirit that she brought to ensure there is no disparity in health and making it easy to understand so that everyone could do it,” said Michael Browning, a health advocate who works in HIV prevention in Los Angeles County. “She walked the walk. She was an example.”
Yancey’s work with Instant Recess, her role as the board president of the Public Health Institute and her role as a commissioner on First 5 LA helping to advocate for physical fitness and good nutrition for children, landed her on the board of directors of the Partnership for a Healthy America, the nonprofit that helped guide Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign.
“We have lost a role model and effective leader in the area of fitness and health,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “She was a pioneer and she used her intelligence, charisma and charm to change the way we view exercise. A sound body is a sound mind and perhaps nobody knew that better than Toni. She will be missed dearly but her legacy lives on.”
Never a smoker, she was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2011. And even as she knew her time would be limited, a poem she wrote in March of last year captured her spirit:
I want to say
A light shone among us
And her energy burned
Very, very bright
And warmed many souls
Then the flame was extinguished
And she moved on
But while she was here
She lived voraciously
Verve and vitality
Always at the vanguard
And then she was needed elsewhere…
It is not easy for students and low income families to find good, affordable health care in a convenient location—all the more reason why Manual Arts Student Body President Garaldine Cabrera was thrilled to see the new Mark Ridley-Thomas Wellness Center at Manual Arts open its doors at the center’s recent grand opening.
“I am overjoyed,” said Cabrera. “My community has to overcome so many obstacles to get good healthcare, like access to transportation and inconvenient scheduling. Now we have this in the palm of our hands. For that, I say thank you.”
The rollout of school based health centers in the Second District continues. The Manual Arts health center, which is approximately 2,000 square feet, is one of a total of eight school-based health centers to open in the Second District in the past two years, including Fremont Wellness Center and Community Garden, Washington Preparatory High School Wellness Center and the Jordan Wellness Center at Jordan High School.
Chairman Ridley-Thomas is working to build at least four more health centers within the next few years. The centers, which offer comprehensive services, are not just filling important gaps in care: they are redefining how healthcare is delivered. Instead of requiring residents to travel to designated medical centers for all of wellness needs, the school-based centers create a constellation of community care that is easy for both students and their families to access.
Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas has long championed school-based centers, but the clinic at Manual Arts High School, from which he graduated in 1972, has special meaning for him. Not only was he both proud and humbled to have the facility named for him, as an alumni and a determined advocate for health centers at schools, he remarked that with the new school-based clinics, a labor of more than a decade has become a reality.
“As a long-time supporter and advocate of health centers, I am just really, really glad to be here,” he said. “As a public servant this is what you live to do—to contribute to the quality of life to the community.”
Although students had a clinic available on campus, the new health center offers significantly more services, including immunizations, physicals, lab services, STD/HIV testing, birth control, vision and hearing testing, nutritional counseling as well as mental health care. Families also can receive health insurance enrollment, case management, health education. The new center will also be open to the public.
Also, LA’s Promise, the nonprofit organization that runs Manual Arts, has partnered with the center’s operator, St. Johns Well Child and Family Center, to launch innovative programs to improve student health and wellness. They recently received grant funding from the California Endowment to provide one physical a year to every 9th grade student with follow-up care. Indeed, as part of a 21st century education, good healthcare is no longer an afterthought.
“Students now have access to robust sources, such as health screenings and mental health services,” said Manual Arts Principal Robert Whitman. “For many students, such resources are as equally important as a strong, rigorous academic program.”
The Mark Ridley-Thomas Wellness Center is expected to officially open its doors for business on June 21.
Dancing in a conga line, listening to the trumpet, guitarron and violin of Mariachi Ellas Son, nearly 300 Second District residents celebrated the Cinco de Mayo holiday at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Public Health in Willowbrook. The festive celebration, which commemorates the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War, is an annual tradition at the Center for Public Health sponsored by Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas.
“We are here to promote and celebrate health, fitness and wellness,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “Over the next year the Martin Luther King, Jr. medical campus will be transformed into a center of excellence for healthcare delivery in the Willowbrook community and beyond.”
As guests received fitness and nutritional eating tips from various resource tables staged in the parking lot, danced to salsa music or munched on salsa verde with chips, corn and bean salad and a vegetable salad prepared by Chef Cheryl Tate, others contemplated what the holiday means to them and reflected on their Mexican roots.
Among those singing along to the ranchera music was Raquel Piñeda, 60, of Florence-Firestone who moved to Los Angeles from Michoacan, Mexico when she was 15-years-old. When they were young, she instilled in her now-grown children a love of Mexican music and dance.
“On Cinco de Mayo we have a family reunion,” said Piñeda. “We teach the kids how to dance to cumbia, mambo, and rock and roll. We play bingo and poker and watch the kids take turns swinging at the piñata.”
Sandra Gonzalez, 33, from Los Angeles, also pauses on Cinco de Mayo to share memories of family.
“We took my first family trip to Mexico when I was nine and my last when I was 14-years-old,” said Gonzalez. “We share stories with younger generations of visiting Mexico when we were younger and it gives the young people in my family an opportunity to learn about their culture -to know who they are and where they come from.”
For others, like Andres Gonzalez, 33 of South Gate, Cinco de Mayo is an opportunity for people of all cultures and walks of life to come together to learn about Mexican history.
“People forget that the city of L.A. was founded by Mexico — San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento- all kept the original names that were given to them when they were part of Mexico,” said Gonzalez. “People forget that not all Latinos are immigrants and that they were here when the south west states became part of the U.S.”
Fabiola Galvan Torres, 23, who was born in Michoacan, Mexico and now lives in Canoga Park, says the holiday makes her feel American.
“I feel like now it’s more of a Mexican-American holiday,” she said. “I think it’s great because it brings everyone together not just Mexicans but it has become like St. Patrick’s Day.”
Homeless and recently released from prison in 2011, Blair Martin knew she needed a big break to get back on her feet. Little did she know that her opportunity would happen so near her hometown of Compton.
Martin had worked all sorts of jobs that were either short lived or uninspiring — like driving a truck for her uncle’s now defunct trucking business or manning a cash register at McDonald’s for eight dollars an hour. So when she was given a chance to interview for a spot on the construction crew of the new MLK outpatient center in Willowbrook, she jumped at it.
The 23-year-old knew she had to make a good impression at the interview and prove that despite her past, she was ready for new future. Martin convinced the hire ups at Sharpe Interior Systems that she wanted a career—not a job and her enthusiasm, broad smile and willingness to work were persuasive. She was hired.
Martin is one of nine women on a crew of more than 130 working on the construction of the MLK outpatient center. When it opens in 2014, the center is expected to provide state of the art outpatient care including primary, specialty and urgent care for those not needing an overnight hospital stay.
Martin benefitted from the local worker hiring program, which Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas has championed on all construction projects in the Second District and the county. On most county jobs, at least 30 percent of the workforce must come from the area and some must be “disadvantaged local workers” meaning that they are homeless or parolees, like Martin.
It is not an easy job. The days are long and arduous.
Her shift begins before 6 a.m. On any given day, Martin, like the men on the job, carries wooden beams and 12-foot-long sheets of wallboard; saw dust and fine particles of dirt swirl in the air, covering the skin in a dusty film. The constant noise from saws, hammers and drills is deafening. Paying attention to her surroundings is key—there are holes in the ground, people walking around with long steel beams and dangling wires everywhere.
Larry Shufelt, the general foreman on the project who hired Martin, estimates that only 1 out of 5 apprentices make it through the end of the three-year training program to become journeyman-or a full union member.
Trainees such as Martin get both on-the-job training but also grounding in job skills important to all employers: “We talk to them about punctuality, attendance and discipline,” he said. “Blair’s work ethic is top notch.”
For Martin, much is at stake: a new life.
“Prison made me change a whole lot,” she said. “I realized I didn’t need a job—I needed a career that I can do for the rest of my life and that I will actually enjoy doing.”
So, while her new career is tough, it has provided a new path and Martin has embraced it fearlessly, said Shufelt.
“In this job, you have to climb high on scaffolding and some don’t like it,” he said. “She is not afraid of heights.”
But in order to climb, she needed a custom made harness for her petite frame. When the order was placed, Shufelt’s boss asked if Martin was worth the investment.
“I looked at him and said, ‘yeah, she is worth investing in,’” he said. “She is going to make it.”
The Wellness Center and Community Garden at Fremont High School is a approximately 2,800 square feet, with four medical exam rooms, two mental health counseling rooms, a dental exam room and a conference room for student meetings. The center will be operated by UMMA Community Clinic while the mental health services will be provided by Special Services for Groups.
The new garden, which now covers one acre adjacent to the center and was built by the LA Neighborhood Land Trust, has a fruit orchard with stone fruit trees, two dozen garden beds for vegetable growing and a medicinal garden. To maintain the garden, a Gardening Apprentice Program, has been launched at the school and 15 students get to learn about growing fruits and vegetables, plant biology and botany.
Los Angeles Lakers’ defender Metta World Peace (formerly known as Ron Artest) brought an exuberant crowd of more than 900 Washington Preparatory High School students to their feet recently as he walked his towering frame to the front of their auditorium and stood behind the podium. As he began speaking, however, the audience quieted down and sat in rapt attention. He spoke of life, its challenges and the importance of seeking knowing they are not alone.
“Every morning you should wake up and ask yourself, ‘Am I on the path to reaching my goals?’ If not, you have to ask yourself some questions,” he said. “It is important that you overcome your difficulties.”
The basketball star came to the West Athens high school for a heart to heart talk with students about mental illness. The Lakers’ defender shared how he has persevered through his own hardships, including his parent’s divorce, living in the projects, overcoming depression and anger issues. Getting help and “having somebody in your court,” is essential, he told the teens. Peace was there to celebrate the opening of the Washington Preparatory Wellness Center, an on-campus healthcare facility where students and the community at-large can receive dental, vision, mental and physical healthcare.
The facility, which will be run in partnership with St. John’s Well Child & Family Center and opens to the public April 26, will also provide assistance with health insurance enrollment. It is one of 12 new school based health centers that have opened in the Second District and a model for the way healthcare can be delivered with schools acting as community hubs. Opening school based health centers has been a top priority for Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who secured more than $300,000 in county funds to help open the Washington Prep Center. Studies have shown that schools with health centers have higher student attendance and less truancy.
In many neighborhoods and communities throughout the district, chronic health conditions such as childhood obesity, asthma and mental health disorders, are significantly higher than in other parts of the county. Chairman Ridley-Thomas pledged to expand health care in the district when he took office in 2008, and he has since partnered with the Los Angeles Unified School District, Compton Unified School District and community health clinics to open these centers.
“There is no shame in trying to get help when you are feeling bad,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas to the students. “The wellness center is going to be your resource. We are taking mental health challenges out of the closet. It is hard to succeed when these needs are not addressed.”
With more than 34 percent unemployment in the surrounding Watts/West Athens area and nearly a quarter of the student body in foster care, many Washington Prep students live with stress and may need mental health treatment but either cannot afford it or may feel wary about asking for it. But at the Wellness Center, Los Angeles Unified School District mental health professionals will offer therapy, mental health consultations for individuals and families, conflict mediation, crisis intervention and psychological first aid in a convenient and confidential way.
“This connects the school community to much needed resources,” said Washington Prep Principal Todd Ullah. “Mental and physical health are paramount to learning.” Jacqueline Zendejas, a senior at Washington Prep, said she would like to study to become a registered nurse. Instead of missing a whole day of school to get to a doctor or dentist appointment, the center will allow students to take care of themselves in a convenient way, she said.
“I cannot explain the happiness this center will bring,” said Zendejas, who hopes to be accepted into Cal State Monterey Bay. “This will make life a lot better for students and for parents as well.” http://www.annenbergradio.org/segments/2013/04/new-wellness-clinic-washington-preparatory-high-school
Expectant mothers in South Los Angeles can look forward to a new model of healthcare thanks to a $2 million-grant recently received by the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services.
According to Dr. Erin Saleeby, the Director of Women’s Health Programs and Innovations for the Department of Health Services, African Americans and Latinas in South Los Angeles face a significantly higher risk of premature births. These same women often live below the poverty line and are provided with a lower standard of prenatal care. They are less likely to have access to transportation and frequent checkups.
“Premature births are one of the most difficult problems we have faced. It can impact a child for life and lead to problems learning and integrating into society,” Dr. Saleeby said. “In the past, prenatal care has had a narrow focus on simply providing medical treatment.”
But the new program, “Strong Start for Mothers and Newborns,” seeks to address the root of these premature births. The new initiative will integrate education, technology and healthcare into a holistic approach. The program will help educate expectant mothers about the impact of substance abuse, malnourishment and spousal abuse on the lives of their new children.
The initiative is being funded by Medicare and Medicaid and is expected to serve 4,000 mothers over the next four years. The services will be available at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, MLK outpatient center, Hubert H. Humphrey Comprehensive Health Center and Wilmington Community Clinic.
“By raising the standard of care, we are not only serving mothers,” said Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas. “We are raising the quality of life in our community for generations to come.”
Congratulations to Yolonda Simmons, winner of our Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital street naming contest. For more than two months, hundreds of people voted on a name for the new street leading to the hospital, and Simmons’ entry, “Healthy Way, ” beat out 57 other contenders.
In gearing up for the opening of the brand new Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas invited county residents to come up with a name that would capture the spirit of the new medical center and encompass the goals of the surrounding community.
Simmons found out about the contest after reading Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ monthly newsletter.
“I’ve never entered any contest before but I wanted to have a voice,” Simmons said. “I really wanted to stress health. The hospital had a rocky road when it closed, and I wanted to reignite the excitement about the new hospital and that it is a healthy way now. I wanted to motivate and encourage those driving, walking and entering the hospital to strive for a healthier future.”
Nearly 800 residents took part in the online voting process , and Simmon’s is quick to note that her victory was not accomplished alone.
“My husband is my secret weapon,” said Simmons, who runs Free N One, a substance abuse program with her husband Ronald Simmons. “He was a social media manager for me and really got the word out in the community. We told everyone at a gathering to vote. If you were with us at a dinner we would not let you go unless you voted.”
When she told her husband that she had entered the contest, he began a social media campaign using Twitter and Facebook to support his wife’s entry.
“It’s important to me that the hospital has a positive image and a bright future because our community needs it, wants it and deserves it,” she said. “It is important that the community supports the positive image the hospital will bring.”
Chairman Ridley-Thomas noted that Simmon’s entry, Healthy Way, is much more than a street name.
“I congratulate Yolonda Simmons, who chose this name, to motivate and encourage those driving, walking and/or entering the area of the hospital to strive for a healthier future,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “The new hospital will be at the heart of an wellness complex that, when completed, will bring a level of healthcare excellence to the region.”