LA County Offers to Step In to Help
Customers of Troubled Water District

Local regulators unanimously voted to initiate the dissolution of the mismanaged Sativa Water District. The vote came just one day after Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn sent a letter to the State Water Board proposing that LA County be appointed as interim administrator of the water district until a permanent agency can be identified. The Local Agency Formation Commission for the County of Los Angeles (LAFCO), consistent with the Supervisors’ letter, also urged the State to appoint and provide financial support to the County of Los Angeles, in order for them to oversee the District. The County of Los Angeles has also offered to lead a process to identify an alternative, competent long-term water provider.

Hundreds of Sativa customers in unincorporated Willowbrook and Compton have reported brown water running through their taps. Unable to provide proper maintenance of its 70-year-old pipes, Sativa has been the subject of many such complaints over the years, as well as allegations of mismanagement and nepotism.

In the letter, the Supervisors also urged the California State Water Resources Board to empower and fund the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works to begin “creating stability in Sativa’s immediate administrative functions” and “facilitating a long-term alternative service provider for this service territory.”

Residents line up for bottled water at Sagrado Corazon Church in Compton.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said, “For too long, government – at all levels – has allowed Sativa to operate without sufficient oversight. The County is willing to step up to facilitate the changes that are necessary to promote the public health and wellbeing of Sativa customers. In this time of unprecedented surpluses in its budget, we hope the State will be our partner by providing the financial resources needed to facilitate our efforts.”

“The County is prepared to step in to take control of this long-mismanaged water district,” said Supervisor Hahn, a member of LAFCO, who voted in favor the dissolution. “The leadership of Sativa has proven itself to be incapable and untrustworthy and as LAFCO moves forward to dissolve this district, I am hopeful that the County can provide some needed supervision and stability.”

When Sativa customers first expressed alarm about the brown water running through their taps in April, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas filed an urgency motion to conduct an investigation, take immediate steps to prevent any serious risks to public health, and determine whether appropriate management and governance of the water district is in place to address Sativa’s infrastructure issues. At his direction, the County distributed approximately 20,000 gallons of bottled water to residents of unincorporated Willowbrook and Compton.

In June, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas called on the California State Water Resources Control Board to appoint an interim administrator to exercise “vigorous oversight” of Sativa. Shortly after, he filed a motion to support SB1577 by Assemblymember Mike Gipson, which called for requiring the state to appoint an overseer for Sativa.

Celebrating South LA Doctors-in-Training

The Board of Supervisors celebrated the newly accredited Family Medicine and Psychiatry Residency Programs at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science (CDU). In partnership with the Los Angeles County Health Agency, the residency programs will train a new generation of doctors to serve patients in South Los Angeles and surrounding communities.

Eight of the new Family Medicine residents and six of the new Psychiatry residents were on hand for the scroll presentation at the Hall of Administration.

“We have a dramatic shortage of primary care and mental health clinicians in this nation, and this shortage is most acutely felt in communities such as South Los Angeles,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, lead author of a motion that helped establish the residency programs. “It is vital that we empower doctors-in-training to become medical leaders who promote wellness and healthcare equity in a compassionate manner.

“This residency program will create a new pipeline for our homegrown LA County physicians,” added Supervisor Janice Hahn, the motion’s coauthor.

CDU President and CEO Dr. David Carlisle said the residency programs are intended to benefit medically underserved communities in South LA. “If you want doctors to work in the community, you need to train them in the community,” he said.

The Family Medicine residents will rotate through Department of Health Services facilities in the southern region of the County, including the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, which will be their home base for inpatient rotations.

The Psychiatry residents will focus on ambulatory services in communities that comprise the County’s Service Planning Area 6, which includes Athens, Compton, Crenshaw, Florence, Hyde Park, Lynwood, Paramount and Watts. Their primary training site will be the Kedren Community Health Center in South LA.

Relay for Life of Baldwin Hills

All photos by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas walked with cancer survivors to kick off the Relay for Life of Baldwin Hills, a 24-hour walkathon aimed at increasing public awareness of cancer while raising much-needed funds for the American Cancer Society’s patient service programs, cancer research, advocacy and community education. In his speech during the opening ceremony, he stressed that fighting cancer requires all hands on deck.

“It’s an honor for me to be able to support the American Cancer Society in their work to fight cancer. I think it would be safe to say that most of us here have been touched by cancer, either personally or through a close friend or family member.

“According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 195,951 new cases of cancer between 2011 and 2015 in Los Angeles County. During that time period, 70,920 people died of cancer in the County.

“We can and must do more. We have to take action to lower the risk factors and exposure to known cancer-causing substances, promote healthy lifestyles, and provide early detection and screening programs.

“In Los Angeles County, fighting cancer means all hands on deck. Recognizing that cancer is a complex disease, our departments employ a multi-disciplinary approach to cancer care — with primary care providers, specialists, surgeons, geneticists, nurses, nutritionists, social workers and others coordinating care centered around the patient.

“Through programs such as Every Woman Counts and Family PACT (Planning, Access, Care and Treatment), we provide free early cancer detection programs, and follow-up care and treatment for low-income residents.

“The results have been noteworthy. In the past two years, we have improved screening rates for several major cancers: 17 percent improvement for breast cancer; 11 percent for colon cancer; and 47 percent for cervical cancer!

“This translates to 12,000 more patients who were screened in 2017 than in 2015.

“County hospitals, often in collaboration with the nation’s leading universities, offer state-of-the-art treatment and research dedicated to comprehensive patient care. Through the eConsult system, we have also improved the speed at which providers receive responses for oncology specialty assistance, ensuring that even non-urgent oncology requests receive responses within four calendar days.

“We have also developed a guidebook called 26 Cancer-care Related Expected Practices to educate providers and establish effective approaches to care, and we have created a Cancer Care Taskforce that will create an action plan for improving the continuum of care for cancer patients within the County system.

“Furthermore, our Department of Public Health works to actively reduce barriers to healthy lifestyles by implementing programs for tobacco control, healthy food access, and environmental health.

“I commend everyone gathered here today for your dedication to fighting cancer. This is a burden that impacts people, regardless of  gender, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity in all parts of County, and we must all step up to the plate.

“Today we are celebrating survivors, recognizing those who continue to fight, and reaffirming our promise not to give up.

“The inspiration, hope, and sense of community generated during the next 24 hours of the Relay for Life will carry us to the next 24 hours, and the one after that, and the one after that.

“Day by day, step by step, we will not only survive, but fight.”

Cannabis Emblem Program

As Los Angeles County continues to be concerned about the public health and safety impact of cannabis, the Board of Supervisors sought a report from the County Office of Cannabis Management on the development and implementation of an Emblem Program that would make it easier for consumers to avoid illegal marijuana businesses.

The Board approved a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn that could allow the Emblem Program to be implemented countywide, allowing cities to opt in.

Similar to letter grades for restaurants, the Emblem Program would require legitimate cannabis businesses to prominently display a placard on their storefont, indicating they have received all necessary state and local licenses and permits to operate.

“As we continue our careful analysis of cannabis, the issue of public health and safety remains paramount,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “The Emblem Program will empower consumers to make educated decisions so that they can steer clear of unlicensed businesses that fail to undergo necessary public health and safety inspections, and offer products that are not tracked, inspected or tested for contaminants. The Emblem Program can also potentially reduce the profitability of unlicensed and unregulated cannabis businesses.”

“Creating a recognizable universal emblem is a good idea because it will allow consumers to know which dispensaries are licensed and selling safe products and which ones are not,” Supervisor Hahn added.

Recognizing that the emblem would be most effective if consistent across jurisdictions, state regulators are now considering implementing Los Angeles County’s program across California.

Urgent Care for People in Crisis

All photos by David Franco/Board of Supervisors

People in the throes of a serious emotional crisis can now get help at the newly opened Exodus Mental Health Urgent Care Center at Harbor-UCLA.

“It is essential that people in crisis have a place where they can feel safe and welcome, and avoid risking harm to themselves and others,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said during the grand opening ceremony. “This is a key piece of Los Angeles County’s safety net, diverting residents towards treatment and services, instead of incarceration.”

There are now six mental health care urgent centers across Los Angeles County, three of them in the Second District. Each provides stabilization services, medication evaluation and management or hospitalization. Interdisciplinary treatment teams can offer a full spectrum of psychiatric treatment services, including linkage to crisis housing, shelter beds, sober living, community-based outpatient program services, and inpatient treatment for mental health or substance abuse.

“Exodus is honored to be providing crisis services on the campus of Harbor UCLA,” said Exodus President and CEO Luana Murphy. “Since the inception in 2006 of the first Exodus Urgent Care Center in Culver City, 112,000 individuals have received crisis services with Exodus and, for some of these clients, this has been their initial contact on their road to recovery, assisting in ending their cycle of homelessness and inconsistent mental health care.”

“Since the ‘entry door’ for services was changed from the Emergency Room door to the Urgent Care Center door, a network of resources has been developed and fostered to support our clients in the community, plus our efficient intake procedure allows law enforcement to deliver clients to us quickly and return back to the community.” she added. “We look forward to supporting the Harbor UCLA Medical Center and campus  in providing very needed services.”

The Exodus Mental Health Urgent Care Center at Harbor-UCLA is a designated Lanterman Petris Short (LPS) Conservatorship, allowing the staff to evaluate and involuntarily detain those individuals determined to be a danger to themselves and others or gravely disabled.

In the last fiscal year, law enforcement brought almost 3,000 people to Mental Health Urgent Care Centers. It provided stabilization services to more than 2,000 people experiencing homelessness, and 1,000 children and young adults involved in the child welfare system.

Mental Health Urgent Care Centers across the County are relieving pressure on overcrowded psychiatric emergency rooms. During the last fiscal year, they handled over 35,000 crisis visits.
Only 5 percent of their clients were readmitted to emergency rooms or acute psychiatric units within 30 days of their visit.

Supervisor Janice Hahn, Mental Health Director Dr. Jonathan Sherin, Center for Health and Social Impact Director Dr. Mark Ghaly, and Exodus Recovery Chief Clinical Officer Kathy Shoemaker also attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony.