For more than three decades, T.H.E. (To Help Everyone) Clinic has been improving the well-being of in need, underserved communities in Los Angeles by providing access to high-quality healthcare and preventive education for all, regardless of ability to pay, while being mindful of the diverse cultural, social and economic factors that make up the foundation of the community. More than 10,000 patients strong, we accomplish this with a talented medical team, and by developing personal relationships with our patients, offering a comprehensive array of healthcare services, and encouraging and educating the community to take a proactive role in developing healthier lifestyles for themselves, their families and for future generations to come.
Founded on February 5, 1974 by eight medical volunteers – Vi Verreux, Joan Alpert, Barbara Saunders, Susan Schlager, Debbi Kates, Fredda Draluck, Marilyn Stone, and Marilyn Norwood – who sought to bring affordable, quality healthcare to uninsured women in the underserved, economically-challenged area of Southwest Los Angeles.
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As a demolition team member for the construction of the new Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital and second district native and current resident, Nathan Covington feels like life is going his way again. Being a part of the demolition crew gives him an opportunity to rebuild his construction career while learning the skills in the demolition field. “I have high hopes working here,” says Covington, 46. “I’m learning about different machinery that I’ve never used.” Raised by a single mother in the second district, Covington grew up with very little direction. Although he’s the youngest of three brothers, he didn’t find many positive male figures in his neighborhood. “Growing up in South Central was tough,” he says. “I didn’t have a lot of role models or guidance.” At age 13, Covington ditched school daily and was later ordered to stay in Juvenile Hall. Unwilling to learn his lesson there, he eventually returned, spending most of his teenage years either staying there or the California Youth Authority. In an effort to straighten his life after turning eighteen, he moved to New York to live with his older brother, a military police officer. But after returning to Los Angeles a year later, Covington began hanging out with the “wrong crowd” and got involved in a drug case, leading to a three-year prison sentence. He ultimately spent the next twelve years in and out of jail for a series of other crimes.
[pullquote_right]”I felt blessed because I needed employment to survive,” said Nathan Covington.[/pullquote_right]After serving his last prison sentence three years ago, Covington engaged in a heart to heart discussion with his mother. He confessed that he wanted to change his life, but he didn’t know how because he never had a focus. Encouraged by his supportive mother and strengthened by his spiritual conversion, Covington found a job at a trucking company and enrolled in a welding course at a local community college. Despite being later forced to quit his job due to an injury, he continued his studies and began frequenting job fairs, where he first learned about PVJOBS. While seeking job counseling at the Southeast L.A. Watts Worksource Center, Covington applied for construction work with PVJOBS, landing a laborer position at the Playa Vista development project a short time later. He was promoted to a foreman within a year. However, he left three years later after enduring a series of sudden deaths in his family. “I went under,” he remembers. “I stopped working. I fell off the radar.”
Grief stricken, Covington spent the next four years working on his own as a carpenter. When work slowed due to the recession, he found it difficult to enter the mainstream job market since he had more than a decade of prison sentences on his record. So he decided to revisit PVJOBS, which led to a five-week assignment at Playa Vista. Covington didn’t receive another construction job assignment for more than a year. Yet, he remained persistent and continued to stay in touch with the job program while taking courses through the Laborers Union. Days after passing the union’s construction safety course, he was offered a job at the hospital development site. “I felt blessed because I needed employment to survive,” says Covington. “Most people like me, who have a prison record, don’t get a chance like this.”
Nowadays, Covington spends his weekdays working hard overseeing his laborer team while attending night classes at Trade Tech to study blue print reading and construction technology. He also happens to be one of the first residents to live at Playa Vista’s Foundation Park Apartments on the west border of the second district, where he’s enjoyed visits from his eight-year-old son and fifteen-year-old daughter.
Covington uses his newfound focus to fuel his growing career. “Even though I’m tired at times, I keep striving because I want something to share with my kids,” he says. “I’m overjoyed by this opportunity. I smile everyday.”
Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas launched a high-tech outreach effort to tackle sexually transmitted diseases in the Second Supervisorial District, where STD levels are the highest in the County. Before the crowd of more than 50 health care advocates, ministers and first ladies, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas led the press conference in front of the new Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Public Health in Willowbrook to announce cutting-edge enhancements to the sexually transmitted disease home testing “I know” program.
The statistics painted a stark picture: STD levels in the Second Supervisorial District are the highest in the County, with hot spots centered in South Los Angeles, and Los Angeles County has the highest number of chlamydia cases and the second-highest number of gonorrhea cases of any county in the nation. More than 30,000 women and girls acquire infections every year, with younger women most heavily affected. In 2010, there were 20,337 chlamydia cases and 2,136 gonorrhea cases reported in females ages 15-24. With the goal of overcoming barriers to diagnosis and treatment, the County launched its award-winning “I Know” home test kit program in 2009, Monday, at the new Martin Luther King Jr. Public Health Center, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and the Department of Public Health are rolling out cutting-edge enhancements to the program: 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 will be 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. Kiosks will be placed at selected venues in the Second District; digital tablets will be put in the hands of trained outreach workers at a wide variety of locations. Both kiosks and tablets will enable 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 County will 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.
“Unfortunately, these infectious diseases are at unacceptable levels and are increasing, particularly among young African-American women,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “Shame is not a cure. These are our mothers, our sisters, our daughters who are suffering from the health consequences of these STDs, and we cannot let them go untreated. Families depend upon them, communities depend upon them, but you can’t treat what you don’t know exists.”
“The “I Know” program has a track record of success,” the Supervisor continued, “so we come together today to encourage women who may be afraid — who likely have no symptoms, but who have made some choices that put them at risk — to take that first step toward getting help and taking a test right in the privacy of their own homes.” LA County Health Officer Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding concurred: “Easy diagnostic testing and effective single-dose treatments mean that there is no reason for anyone now to suffer infertility, tubal pregnancy, complications for newborns, or other serious long-term consequences of these unnecessarily common STDs.” With most cases being asymptomatic, regular screening by sexually active individuals is the only effective way to stop the spread of the these infections, said Dr. Fielding. Chlamydia and gonorrhea are curable, but treatment does not prevent subsequent infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that sexually active women age 25 and younger be screened for chlamydia once per year. The “I Know” home testing program has been a true success. In its first year the website received 30,878 total visits and 2,927 kits were ordered. A total of 1,543 testable swabs were returned, of which 131 (8.5%) were positive for chlamydia or gonorrhea.
“This program has been incredibly successful in promoting testing and finding STD cases,” said the Dr. Peter Kerndt, STD Program Director at the department, 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 launch of the new program coincides with the imminent opening of the new Martin Luther King, Jr Center for Public Health, at the corner of Wilmington and 120th Street, a County public health facility that went from ground-breaking to completion in less than one year. According to Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, the expanded “I Know” program epitomizes the potential of public health, and dovetails with the mission of the new health center, in the 21st century.
“You can see that we have a community engagement room in this new health center, which opens large bay doors directly to the outside for large-scale events,” he said. “Like those bay doors, this health center will open the potential for public health far beyond its own walls: the “I Know” program will now be everywhere that we can put a kiosk, everywhere any partnering community agency can send an outreach worker with a tablet, and anywhere a woman has access to a computer or any phone. But for those who need treatment or follow-up exams, this new health center has its doors wide open.”
Supervisor Ridley-Thomas noted that the expansion of “I Know” is also linked to a comprehensive strategy, further extending linkages from clinics to the surrounding community. Other elements of the comprehensive strategy include an increase in community-based public health workers to follow-up on cases and ensure treatment of women and their partners, school education programs, clinic referral guides for high school and middle school students, a County authorized use of a mobile van for outreach and distribution of condoms and partnerships with community-based agencies, as well as faith-based organizations. These partnerships will put tablets in the hands of trained community outreach workers to deliver home test kits in the communities most impacted by these infections. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas emphasized that public health is a critical investment that local government must make, because there is no other entity to do so.
Supervisor Ridley-Thomas also hosted a breakfast on September 1, 2011 for some of the leaders from the ecumenical community to enlist their support for his initiative. The poignant discussions has resulted in the First Ladies of the Faith-based community taking a stand on this issue and offering a well-thought out plan to work with the Second District and the Department of Public Health to empower young women to take charge of their overall health and well-being. Previous evaluation of “I Know” conducted by the County’s STD Program showed that women ages 18-25 (all eligible for the home testing program) who had seen “I Know” marketing materials were more than 1.5 times more likely to have been tested for Chlamydia and gonorrhea in the past six months. The program also received an achievement award in 2010 from the National Association of Counties.
In 2010, there were 44,648 total reported cases of chlamydia and 9,501 total cases of gonorrhea among L.A. County residents. Among diseases with mandated reporting requirements, chlamydia and gonorrhea are the two most commonly reported infectious diseases in the United States.
In closing the Supervisor notified onlookers that the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Public Health is the first facility in Los Angeles County to use a mobile STD testing van, touch screen kiosks, and digital tablets in the campaign against sexually transmitted diseases. “You are witnessing history, right here, right now, and you are a part of it,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.
About eight kiosks will be placed around South Los Angeles. Test-takers are able to get their test results online or by calling 1-800-758-0880.
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On Sunday, October 9, CicLAvia returns to Los Angeles for its third year allowing the public to stroll through a 10.5 mile stretch without cars, vans, or buses. CicLAvia invites Los Angeles residents to forget about traveling in a car, bus, or on a motorcycle, and explore the streets of Los Angeles, on foot, bike, skates, skateboard or scooter. Non-profit CicLAvia makes getting around the streets of Los Angeles safe for families to not only enjoy the streets of Los Angeles but indulge in the restaurants, shops and public spaces that make Los Angeles unique. This year’s route extends from east Hollywood to Boyle Heights and includes MacArthur Park, the African American Firefighter Museum on Central Avenue, the South Lawn of City Hall, Hollenbeck Park in Boyle Heights, El Pueblo de Los Angeles and Olvera Street.
Ciclovías began more than 30 years ago in Bogotá, Colombia, in response to the congestion and pollution of city streets. Today, Ciclovias can be found throughout Latin America and the United States connecting communities and eliminating the stress of traffic. Recognized as a model for creating public space, CicLAvia is Los Angeles’ adoption of a Ciclovías. The first CicLAvia was launched in Los Angeles in October 2010 with a well received response of approximately 100,000 participants.
CicLAvia will run from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., is free and open to people of all ages. No reservations required. For more information, visit www.ciclavia.org
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