Cracking Down on Nuisance Tobacco Shops

Acting on a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn, the Board of Supervisors voted to draft an ordinance expanding the regulation of nuisance tobacco shops.

They said the ordinance should:

• ban tobacco shops in residential zones;
• ban tobacco shops within a certain distance of residential zones, schools, parks, youth centers and other locations whose primary purpose is to serve children; and
• require tobacco shops to obtain a business license; and
• regulate retailers of electronic and flavored tobacco products.

“Our communities, particularly our youth, are facing new challenges to their health and safety with the rise of vaping and e-cigarettes, not to mention the challenges posed by existing nuisance tobacco shops,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “It is important that we craft a thoughtful and balanced approach to regulation.”

“My office gets many calls from residents dealing with nuisance smoke shops– shops that are advertising and selling to kids or blowing smoke into their homes,” Supervisor Hahn said. “This is a serious health issue and a quality of life issue and we need new tools to better protect our residents, their children, and their neighborhoods.”

Back in March, the Board directed the County’s Department of Public Health to work with the Department of Regional Planning, County Counsel, Sheriff, Treasurer and Tax Collector, and community stakeholders to assess the number and location of nuisance tobacco shops countywide, ways to monitor them, and best practices for regulating them. The Board also called for developing education and outreach strategies to reduce the use of tobacco and certain other substances.

Some of the workgroup’s findings and recommendations will form the basis of the ordinance, which will be submitted to the Board for approval within 180 days.

“The Public Health Department supports efforts led by Supervisor Ridley Thomas to protect our young people from harmful tobacco products that are often advertised and packaged to appeal to teenagers,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “Limiting the proliferation of smoke shops can both reduce youth exposure to tobacco products and address the many concerns of residents living in close proximity to these businesses.”

County Regional Planning Director Amy Bodek added her department “fully supports healthy, thriving neighborhoods, and will advocate with the Board of Supervisors and DPH to implement appropriate regulations to curb the proliferation of tobacco use, particularly smoke shops.”

As part of the workgroup, the nonprofit Community Coalition held a forum to hear the public’s concerns about nuisance tobacco shops. Its director of organizing, Patricia Guerra, welcomed the drafting of an ordinance to address the problem. “It is time to put the people of LA County first and improve the health and safety of all communities by putting an end to the overconcentration of nuisance sites that foster crime and addiction,” she said.

Breaking New Ground on MLK Medical Campus

Groundbreaking for the MLK Community Health Medical Office Building. Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas led the groundbreaking ceremony for the newest addition to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus in Willowbrook: a medical office building that will increase access to healthcare in South Los Angeles by creating more space for physicians to care for patients.

Scheduled to open in 2020, the MLK Community Health Medical Office Building will provide primary care for the local community, as well as valuable services to treat chronic conditions. Outpatient services will include dialysis, wound care, and imaging. There will also be an ambulatory surgery center, a retail pharmacy, and a space for community health education.

The 52,000-sq. ft. MLK Community Health Medical Office Building will be the new home of the MLK Community Medical Group, which recruits doctors from prestigious medical centers across the nation who have a desire to serve in a safety-net community.

Sweet Alice Harris speaks at the groundbreaking. Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

“When you talk about best practices in community health, the evidence is overwhelming that access to primary care is a critical piece of the puzzle,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, the driving force behind the medical campus. “With the creation of the MLK Medical Group and this medical office building, we are creating an essential link between hospital patients and ongoing care following discharge.”

“The MLK Community Health Medical Office Building represents a fulfillment of our promise to this community,” MLK Community Hospital CEO Dr. Elaine Batchlor said. “This moment is about more than a building – it’s a milestone for improving health in South LA.”

Dr. Jorge Reyno, MLK Community Hospital Vice President of Population Health, is one of the doctors looking forward to having an office at the new building. “It will serve as a hub to improve outcomes, and an important bridge between inpatient and outpatient care, supporting our work in care management, and helping us achieve our goals for patient and community wellness,” he said.

Several members of the community expressed their enthusiasm for the project, including Sweet Alice Harris, Arna Fulcher of the Empowerment Congress, and Arturo Ibarra of the Watts/Century Latino Organization.

Developed in partnership with Trammell Crow Company, the project is expected to create 200 construction jobs. It is only the latest addition to the still-expanding MLK Medical Campus, which besides the MLK Community Hospital and MLK Outpatient Center, also includes the MLK Center for Public Health, the MLK Mental Health Urgent Care Center, and MLK Recuperative Care Center.

First-of-its-Kind Online Tool to Address Street Homelessness

A first-of-its-kind online tool now helps address street homelessness in Los Angeles County.  The Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative and Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority launched the Los Angeles Homeless Outreach Portal, dubbed LA-HOP. Funded by Measure H, the new mobile-friendly platform empowers members of the public, first responders and service providers to provide information on homeless persons on the street and request outreach.

“With just a few taps on a cell phone, LA-HOP makes it easier to request help for people experiencing homelessness on the streets of L.A. County,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “This innovative tool will help us deploy our street outreach teams where they are most needed, so they can begin building relationships with our homeless neighbors and offer to connect them to services and housing.”

LA-HOP (la-hop.org) is a valuable new tool to get services to vulnerable residents living on the street. It makes it easier and more efficient for the public to request help and have it dispatched to connect homeless persons with outreach workers. The portal takes the guesswork out of figuring out geographic boundaries, by seamlessly routing requests and tracking the response. An outreach coordinator in each region serves as the “air traffic controller” for all requests and deploys the most appropriate outreach team, with the goal of reducing response times to those in need.

“This website is an important new addition to the many ways in which county, city, nonprofits and community leaders are working together to reduce homelessness,” said Board Chair Sheila Kuehl. “It gives the public a way to directly seek help for men, women and families experiencing homelessness. No single solution is a magic bullet, but each step we take gets us closer to our goal of making sure that every man, woman and child in L.A. County has a home.”

The Countywide movement to prevent and combat homelessness is constantly seeking new approaches to deliver what’s working more effectively. LA-HOP is designed to advance efforts to help people move from homelessness to housing by activating the general public to become part of the solution.

“LA-HOP provides a quick and easy way for residents to be a part of the solution to help combat homelessness by connecting homeless individuals to critical supportive services,” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger.   “With this portal, we get real-time information about where homeless individuals are, allowing us to connect them to resources more quickly and efficiently.”

LA-HOP was designed by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority in collaboration with the Los Angeles County Health Agency and the Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative. Due to high demand, it may take a few days for an outreach team to be deployed; coordinators will prioritize those individuals who are most vulnerable. With nearly 40,000 people living on the streets of LA County, the need for outreach services is great.

“There are plenty of people in L.A. County who come across a person struggling with homelessness and don’t know what to do to get them help,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “LA-HOP is an innovative tool that makes it easy for the public to request help for people in need anywhere in L.A. County.  If this homelessness crisis has proven anything, it is that our county is full of compassionate, caring people and this online portal allows them to be part of the solution.”

“LA-HOP is a powerful tool to directly target resources and outreach to people experiencing homelessness,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. “By efficiently routing support and empowering the public, this new Measure H-funded web portal will be an important part of our effort to quickly help the most vulnerable members of our society.”

Outreach teams responding to LA-HOP requests also conduct ongoing outreach all across the County. The portal does not replace homeless encampment reporting protocols established by the City of Los Angeles (my311), the County of Los Angeles and other jurisdictions.

Statement by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas On the Typhus Outbreak

“Public health crises do not discriminate between housed and unhoused individuals. We hope that the work our public health department is leading will help address both the immediate typhus outbreak and the underlying drivers that put our communities at risk for this and other public health harms.”

Care Harbor Provides Free Health Care to Thousands

Volunteer dentists at Care Harbor on October 13, 2018. Photo by Hugh Williams / Board of Supervisors

An estimated 3,000 people received medical, dental, vision and preventive care – all for free – at this year’s Care Harbor mega health clinic.

Over three days, thousands of volunteer doctors, nurses, dentists, optometrists and other healthcare professionals provided primary and specialty care, immunizations, screenings, eye exams, dental extractions, Type 2 Diabetes management and prevention, and many other health services at The Reef in downtown Los Angeles.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas speaks at Care Harbor 2018. Photo by Hugh Williams / Board of Supervisors

“We’re here today because, despite all the progress we’ve made, there are still too many people who slip through the cracks and go without medical treatment,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “Together, we’re all committed to providing a healthcare safety net that’s robust and responsive to the needs of our most vulnerable communities.”

“With the help of our generous partners, Care Harbor offers a wide range of health services at no cost for people who lack access to the care that they need,” said Don Manelli, founder and president of Care Harbor, a nonprofit organization that works with volunteer healthcare professionals and community resources to organize large-scale free urban health clinics for uninsured and medically underserved populations. “In addition to medical, dental and vision care, we’re providing preventive care, mental health counseling and referrals, social and legal services,” Manelli added.

Optometrist performs vision test. Photo by Hugh Williams / Board of Supervisors

“Care Harbor offers an excellent opportunity for residents with unmet healthcare needs to access the healthcare and prevention education resources necessary to thrive,” added County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer. “Thanks to the tremendous leadership of Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and the partnership of committed community partners, Los Angeles County can participate in Care Harbor and help meet the medical, dental, vision and prevention care needs of our most vulnerable residents.”

“Each year, the Care Harbor clinic shows the unfortunate magnitude of the uninsured in Los Angeles County and the tremendous unmet need for basic medical, dental and vision care despite coverage gains,” County Health Services Director Dr. Christina Ghaly said. “When individuals, especially those with chronic illnesses, avoid medical care because of the high cost or because they do not have access to a regular provider, they place their health and the health of their families in jeopardy. The County Health Services Department is proud to be an annual Care Harbor event sponsor and build healthier communities by linking participants to ongoing, affordable care within our County-run health system.”

Volunteer physician serves a patient at Care Harbor 2018. Photo by Hugh Williams / Board of Supervisors

“Care Harbor, made possible through the work of hundreds of clinicians, staff and dedicated volunteers in service to our County’s most vulnerable residents, is a grassroots approach to the fundamental need for integrated health care,” County Mental Health Director Dr. Jonathan Sherin said. “Through this effort, and follow-up visits to local clinics throughout the County, clients are receiving vital services for their physical and mental health, with a focus on how to maintain good health and achieve wellbeing.”

“L.A. Care and Care Harbor share a common desire to serve the most vulnerable communities in Los Angeles County and help residents live healthier lives,” said L.A. Care Health Plan Deputy Chief Medical Officer Alex Li. “As a physician who has volunteered at this event, I am always inspired by the incredible spirit of all of the volunteers.”