- Second District
When Michelle Guymon first heard the term “sex trafficking,” she figured it was not her problem. After all, as a probation officer in Los Angeles County, she had no control over what happened in faraway places like Thailand or Belarus.
“The only thing I knew about trafficking was that it was a bad thing happening to kids in other countries,” she said. “I had heard about them on TV.”
But to her dismay, she quickly learned that these girls were here in Los Angeles. Even worse, she had been dealing with them for years as a probation officer and therapist helping kids through childhood traumas and their arrests as prostitutes. Like many in law enforcement, she just didn’t comprehend it.
“I realized that these were the girls that I had always worked with. They were being exploited sexually rather than being a teenage prostitute,” she said. “I think looking back on it, that realization was a hard moment. There were things I could have done better to move them forward and help them along that path, if I had known better. Now that I know better, we have to do better.”
And do better, she has. As the head of the Probation Department’s Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Project, Guymon is one of the key players in getting better services to the young victims as they enter the probation system. She was instrumental in applying for a state grant that allowed the county to begin a separate court program that diverts young girls away from incarceration and into programs and therapy that might help them get out of the life of commercial sexual exploitation. She has also established a pilot program in South Los Angeles—the epicenter of the sex trafficking problem—to create a safety net with a protocol for these girls.
Addressing the issue of human trafficking is a priority for Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas.
“I intend to do everything in my power to address this problem and help these young people leave conditions that absolutely no one should endure,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas.
There is much, however, that can be done. Through her work Guymon came to realize that before girls are trafficked they come into contact an average of 33 times with local authorities — whether it is through law enforcement agencies, social workers or health care workers. Both the officials coming into contact with the girls and the community at large need more education in order to help them. Most importantly, these girls must be seen as victims—not as criminals. The average age of girls coerced or forced into sex work is 12, and for many, the consequences are tragic. In just the last two months, one victim of sex trafficking was found dead in the sands of Newport Beach and another burned to death in South LA.
“Young girls go to the emergency room and to public health clinics—that is a huge point of contact,” she said. “If nurses and health practitioners knew and they asked, ‘wait a minute, why is this girl at 15 here by herself, why is she beat up?’ Then when she comes in contact with people, different questions will be asked.”
Ideally, Guymon would like the county to launch similar public awareness campaigns on sex trafficking as the domestic abuse and the Safe Surrender Don’t Abandon Your Baby campaigns. Also, the laws have to change. Some progress has been made with the passage of Proposition 35 ordering tougher sentencing laws against traffickers. However, girls are still treated like criminals, arrested for prostitution, sent through the criminal justice system and are punished more severely than the clients paying to have sex with them.
“These kids run a lot. So the more people are aware, the more we can make services available sooner,” she said. “Right now there is no countywide educational outreach.”
Growing up in Utah, she realized how sheltered her life had been when she moved to Los Angeles to work in a group home as the recreational director. Although she originally wanted to be a women’s college basketball coach, she found her true calling was working with at-risk kids. In 1989, she joined the probation department and has not looked back since.
As a ball player at the University of Utah, her father always told her she was better on offense than defense. Although she no longer plays basketball, she is still better at offense—especially when it comes to helping out these young girls. She has learned from her mistakes. She no longer asks them too many questions about their traumas; too many of the kids she saw began unraveling when she delved too deeply into their pain. She no longer believes these kids should be locked up to be protected. Instead, she could be seen as a lighthouse, where kids can seek her out when they are ready to find their way.
“You have to get to a place where you believe in their resilience and make a strong connection with these kids and love them through it,” she said. “No matter how many times they run, they can always reach back and we will always be there to support them. That is the best thing we can do.”
“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.” http://www.lasentinel.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=10883:grand-opening-of-new-health-center-at-dominguez-high&catid=80:local&Itemid=170
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.
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.”
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: http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/aids/index.htm. In addition, here is the link on the peer to peer awareness campaign led students and the Los Angeles Unified School District (Project U): http://www.projectula.org/projectula-home.aspx.
Denece Johnson remembers all too well having to stand for hours at Hubert Humphrey Medical Comprehensive Health Center’s urgent care facility to see a doctor or to get her prescription for high blood pressure refilled. There were never enough seats to fit the number of people in need.
But this week she marveled at the $7.8 million renovation that doubled the waiting room capacity and will soon offer more patient rooms to accommodate the need. No longer will patients have to use dilapidated, dark bathrooms, trip on upturned linoleum floor tiles or wait in the rain in the parking lot while they watch the time go by.
“People were in the parking lot, standing around waiting,” said the 59-year-old South Los Angeles resident. “It was sheer, pure hell. Facilities in South Central were overlooked for a long time. But now they are making this place to be decent.”
The renovation, which includes a large, clean and well lit waiting area with new chairs and televisions, was a priority for Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas’ so that all county residents—whether they are insured or not—receive better healthcare service.
The Hubert Humphrey facility has approximately 126,000 visits —35,000 from the urgent care—every year for a range of ailments. The center’s specialties include optometry, ophthalmology, podiatry, gynecology and HIV prevention.
The expansion added 2,200 square feet to the urgent care center with the new waiting room, triage center, registration space and seven exam rooms which should be completed by the end of summer. In addition, a new air conditioning system was installed to replace the broken down unit which made the place unbearably hot in summer and an additional 50 parking spaces were added to ease congestion.
For Dr. Cesar Aristeiguieta, director of Emergency Medical Services at Hubert Humphrey, the new urgent care facility could not come too soon.
“The place was really run down,” he said. “Now the patients will also be much happier.”
With the Affordable Care Act, set to be implemented in 2014, more residents will be covered by affordable insurance and more federal resources will be invested in prevention. Hubert Humphrey is only one piece of Chairman Ridley-Thomas’ health and wellness strategy for his constituents. The opening of a new hospital, the Multi-Service Ambulatory Care Center and plans for a Psychiatric Urgent Care Center on the Martin Luther King, Jr. campus in Willowbrook are key steps toward strengthening the county’s health system that will not only serve as engines for economic development and neighborhood revitalization, but also to bring a holistic approach to preventive medicine.
“We are focused on improvement of care and experience for our patients at county facilities,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “The implementation of the Affordable Care Act will mean a new level of service and competition and that is a good thing. I look forward to celebrating more milestones as we endeavor to improve our health system.”
The county’s first sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing kiosk in a college setting is now available at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College. The digital tablet and touch-screen kiosk was installed in the student health center at Elm Hall to make STD home testing kits more widely and immediately available. In the first four hours of its launch, the kiosk at Trade-Technical College had 20 orders, reinforcing a message of empowerment to women who want to find out about their health and wellbeing in an easy and reliable manner. The kiosk is part of a larger information and testing program spearheaded by Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas to help increase awareness about sexually transmitted diseases. The Second Supervisorial district has the largest rates of in his district, where STDs like Chlamydia and gonorrhea. The statistics are stark. In 2010, there were 20,337 Chlamydia cases and 2,136 gonorrhea cases reported in females ages 15-24. The kiosk is part of the Los Angeles County Department of HIV And STD Programs award-winning “I Know” home test kit program launched in 2009. New digital tablets and touch-screen kiosks now make home testing kits more widely and immediately available to women. Women who use the kiosks or digital tablets to order a kit are able to receive their kit on the spot, without waiting for it to arrive by mail. All “I Know” materials and the website are available in both English and Spanish, and there is no cost to use the home testing program. The kiosk enables secure access to the program’s website to record kit orders, so that women can later obtain their results from the program website, or by calling a toll-free number. Women throughout the Ccounty will be continue to be able to order kits from the www.DontThinkKnow.org website, or by calling the County STD Program’s toll-free hotline number, 1-800-758-0880, to have test kits sent to them by mail. “We must endeavor to reduce these rates of infection,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “Education and empowerment are essential tools to addressing this problem.” Young African American and Latina women bear a disproportionate burden from these infections. In 2010, there were 19,831 reported cases of Chlamydia and 2,481 reported cases of gonorrhea among African American and Latina women. These totals represent more than two-thirds of all reported female Chlamydia cases, and more than 72% of all reported female gonorrhea cases, in 2010. The burden of these infections is especially heavy on younger African American and Latina women ages 15-24, who had roughly 7 in 10 of all Chlamydia and Gonorrhea cases among African American and Latina women. Chlamydia rates are much higher for young African American and Latina women; and Gonorrhea rates are much higher among African American women. Among Latinas ages 20-24, Chlamydia rates (cases per 100,000 population) are nearly double that of white women of the same age; among African American women 20-24, the rate exceeds six times that of whites. The disparity is even greater in the Gonorrhea rate for African American women ages 20-24, which is more than nine times that of whites, and nearly twelve times that of Latinas. These disparities are similar among 15-19 year-olds. “This program has been incredibly successful in promoting testing and finding STD cases,” said the Dr. Peter Kerndt, former STD Program Director at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, noting that few clinics can show a comparable rate of case detection, and that none can perform testing for such a broad cross-section of at-risk women. In addition, according to Dr. Kerndt, not all women can or will access a clinic, due to lack of transportation, privacy fears, or the lack of symptoms typical of these STDs. The program has proved both popular and effective. Well over 6,000 kits have been ordered through the program since its launch in June 2009. In 2012, a total of 1,179 specimens were sent to the Public Health Lab through the program; and 9.4% of testable specimens were positive for either Chlamydia or gonorrhea – a case-detection rate that exceeds that of many clinics serving young women. The program received a National Association of Counties achievement award in 2010, and has sparked interest in many other jurisdictions. In addition, an evaluation study of the “I Know” media campaign in 2009 found that women who had seen the campaign were 1.5 times more likely to have been tested for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea in the past six months. Plans are underway to expand the program to three other California counties in 2013. For more information about the “I Know” program, click here.
Dr. Robert Ross delivered the keynote address at Charles Drew University’s Inauguration of its new president, Dr. David Carlisle. The text of his inspirational speech, in which he extols Dr. Carlisle’s brilliance, record of accomplishment and integrity, as well as the university’s crucial role as a centuries-old institution serving African-American and Latino communities, is featured in full below:
Thank you, and thank you to the friends, family and supporters of Charles R. Drew University, the dedicated faculty, the supportive administration and staff, the students, the Trustees, and of course, our new President, Dr. David Carlisle.
The definition of Inauguration:
· The formal admission of someone to office; a ceremonial induction into office.
· A ceremony to mark the beginning or introduction of something.
· The beginning or introduction of a system, policy, or period.
So, among three standard dictionaries – the British & World English Dictionary, the Merriam Webster Dictionary, and Dictonary.com – three similar, but not identical definitions.
In preparing for these remarks today, I initially struggled with the question of which of these three definitions was most appropriate for this particular ceremony, at this particular time, on this particular day. Which one of these three would I hinge this set of 10-minute, 600 seconds worth of remarks about?
Answer: all three. Upon reflection, this ceremony is certainly about the induction of a person. But it is also about a thing, an institution. Most powerfully, it is about an idea.
As to the first definition, and the one that is most concretely evident as recorded in the printed program, we are indeed marking a “ceremonial induction into office.” It is the representation among the three definitions of the term “inauguration” that is about a particular person being inducted into a particular office.
I have known Dr. David Carlisle for more than two decades, although I will confess that in the earlier portion of that time frame, we did not get to know one another well. We were both participants in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program in the late eighties. I can attest to the fact that, at the time, David embodied, certainly by reputation, being both clinical, and a scholar. (For me, I represented one of the two, and it most certainly was not the scholarly portion.)
Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to submit that Dr. David Carlisle is a timeless sort of leader. He is a leader who represents the sensibilities and values from a bygone era, but desperately needed in leaders of our current time.
He is obviously bright, even brilliant, certainly accomplished, utterly mission driven, and of tremendous integrity. He is soft spoken, even-tempered, fair-minded, justice-oriented, and, in the tradition of leaders of academic institutions, science-, data-, and evidence-driven. Today’s leaders appear to be suited to the accommodation of political convenience – and even celebrated for their ability to craft political maneuvering.
David, on the other hand, is the umpire dutifully calling balls and strikes, and fair and foul balls, in the World Series Game. He will not sacrifice integrity or truth for the politics or drama of the stage or the moment. He will call them the way he sees them, and he will do so in service of integrity, accountability, and the mission of this extraordinary institution. And he will do so because the institution is bigger than any one of us.
Which brings me to the second definition of the term “inauguration”: a ceremony to mark the introduction, or in this case, the re-birth, of some “thing”. The “thing”, in this case, is Charles R. Drew University, the only historically African-American, Hispanic-serving educational institution in the 230-year plus history of this great nation. This “thing”, the institution, is different – even unique – a community-birthed and community-driven institution who, named after a great figure in African-American history and American medical lore, endures and even thrives in spite of all conceivable manner of financial, political, leadership, and management challenge.
Nearly two years ago our foundation, The California Endowment, was approached to rally to the cause of this institution, and the question on the table for me as CEO, and ultimately, our Board of Directors, was the following: was Charles R. Drew University, as a financially embattled institution, “an investable proposition?”
Many other institutions answered either “no”, or “we’ll wait and see.”
My answer to our Board of Directors – as I requested funding and support for CDU — was a “Yes, we must.” And a key reason was its people. The community it served. The institution’s mission-hungry and passion-driven students. It’s highly committed faculty, sticking with the institution through all and any manner of difficulty. A staff who would never give up on the value that the institution brings to the community.
Which brings me to the third definition of the term “inauguration”: the beginning of a system, policy, or period. And what, precisely, is the “system” or “period” that we, more accurately, “re-inaugurate” today? Most critically, it is that of an idea. And that idea is the idea of health justice. It is as alive and as powerfully relevant today as it was circa 1965 to 1968, when Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi and Cesar Chavez and Malcolm X and the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act were controversial vehicles of social change and social justice and social equity.
While the idea of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar Chavez is too often symbolically reduced to holidays and postage stamps, and festivals, and parades, it is the daily, weekly, and monthly work and commitment to service by Charles R. Drew University that keeps the idea of social and health justice meaningfully, authentically, and palpably alive. And that idea has been fed, nourished and nurtured by the passing of a social justice relay baton, a torch if you will, handled and carried by individuals carrying the names of Drew, and Hawkins, and Gill, and Satcher, and Williams, and Hopper, and Francis, and Dowling, and Norris, and Baker, and Wilson, and Ridley-Thomas, – and now Carlisle.
Men and Women, Ladies and Gentlemen, there is no more extraordinary moment than the moment of now to realize the vision and mission of Charles Drew University. An African-American President of these United States has imposed his leadership will on this nation, to bring forward a policy instrument, a policy platform, in the name of the Affordable Care Act. Accessible, affordable, quality care for all. We cannot waste this moment, and CDU is rising at precisely the right moment in time.
You have a community, and a student body, and an administrative staff, and a faculty, and a Board of Trustees behind you. And you have Dr. David Carlisle to lead you there.
Thank you for permitting me and The California Endowment an opportunity to contribute to an extraordinary saga in the history of health justice in this nation. God Bless You, and the Charles R. Drew University, and congratulations to Doctor David Carlisle.
Robert K. Ross, M.D.
President & CEO
The California Endowment
Not too long ago when students at Dominguez High School in Compton got sick, the only option was a trip to the nurse’s office. At best, the nurse was equipped with a thermometer, a tongue-depressor and a hard vinyl couch where students could recline until a parent arrived. Fast forward to health care delivery in 2013.
Now students are able to walk a few yards on campus to visit a brightly colored, full-scale health clinic, complete with doctors, nurses, dentistry services and even a small scale pharmacy. The St. John’s Well Child & Family Center at Dominguez High School is one of eight new school -based clinics in the Second District , with an on-site health clinic available not only to students but to the community at large. In addition, seven more centers serving both students and families are expected to open in the next five months. Establishing school based clinics has been 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.
“These clinics are an integral part of a community,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “This is where easy access to medical care and preventing illnesses begins.”
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.
At these clinics, 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. The Dominguez High School clinic is expected to open full time in March.
“We really want to be seen as a medical home not just for students but for communities that we serve,” said S. Nomsa Khalfani, chief of Policy and Support Services St. John’s Well Child & Family Center. “Some people think of a school - based clinic as a nurse’s office. But this is like walking into any other doctor’s office.”
Khalfani said lack of easy health care access can adversely impact a child’s education. Recently, one student at Dominguez was missing days of school, prompting administrators to find out why. They discovered he was sick but had not gone to the doctor because his family lacked insurance. The clinic, 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 healthcare 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.”
At other school clinics , such as the Jefferson High School Wellness Center, operated by South Central Family Health Center, students come in frequently for non-urgent illnesses like colds or stomach ailments. But they are also using the clinic to get questions answered about contraception and the threat of sexually transmitted diseases. Approximately a quarter of all chlamydia and gonorrhea infections in Los Angeles County in 2010 were diagnosed in South Los Angeles, according to the STD Morbidity Report for Los Angeles County.
“There are a lot of children who do not know or do not think they will get it,” said Dr. Gustavo Roldan, the on-site physician at Jefferson. “ But there are a high percentage of kids getting STDs like gonorrhea or chlamydia. There is definitely a lot of peer pressure to have sex.”
To help in student outreach, Genevieve Filmardirossian, associate director and chief operations officer of South Central Family Health Centers and her staff meet with school administrators once a month to discuss student and community needs.
She also plans to hire two students to serve as “teen workers” to conduct presentations to the students about health related issues like obesity and peer pressure. Zaira Castro, 16, wants to be one of the teen workers to help her classmates understand that the decisions they make in haste could end up causing them major problems in the future. She sees friends with terrible nutrition habits, eating too much junk food. Other friends are sexually active but not physically active, she said.
“I don’t know if they have all the information on the consequences of what can happen. It is easier to influence them if it’s by someone their age,” said Castro, who wants to be a psychiatrist. “If an adult is telling me what to do I wouldn’t pay attention but they will listen to me because I am a teen.”
On the 84th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, plans for the new Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital campus received a thumbs up from the Board of Supervisors, as they unanimously approved the master plan for an expansive health and wellness campus in South Los Angeles. The MLK campus will be at the heart of a web of community wellness resources. It recommends not only expansion of the new hospital and existing Multi-Ambulatory Care Center, but it also urges a new mental health urgent care center, mixed-use retail space, medical office space, connected community gardens, safe pedestrian walkways and recreational facilities to promote wellness and physical activity, among other suggestions.
A priority project for Board Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, the in-patient hospital is expected to be completed by 2013. The master plan was the result of a year-long community planning process, and was formed with the input of hundreds of residents, civic leaders, business owners and health care advocates.
The master plans is a roadmap, not a hard and fixed requirement, but it seek to anticipate the future direction of healthcare and prepare for that new day. It also lays out a vision for the entire 142-acre Willowbrook community that surrounds the campus.
Off campus, the plan envisions space for school-based health centers, mobile clinics, blood banks, and community health centers to support the work of the MLK campus and provide a more holistic approach to health care. The plan recommends a new health park and a series of connected community gardens, safe pedestrian walkways, and recreational facilities to promote wellness and physical activity. It promotes access to healthier food options and includes space for retail. It also increases access to public transportation.
“I am thrilled with the passage of this master plan,” said the Chairman. “It is our goal to bring a complete and comprehensive network of services—not just a hospital—to South Los Angeles. The planning process was intense and intensive, but it was well worth it. This document will serve as a guide for many years to come as we bring top-notch services to a community that has long waited for quality care.”