Willowbrook, MLK

Mental Health Urgent Care Center Opens

Jo Helen Graham’s son Mark was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia when he was 15 years old. Despite his parents’ efforts to find him ongoing treatment, little has been available to address his mental illness and he has suffered. A barroom brawl years ago landed him in prison when he was 19 – a tragic turn for a young man who desperately needed mental health intervention.

MLK Mental Health Urgent Care Center

“Mark was never able to receive the proper mental health treatment that would have helped him,” Graham said speaking at the ribbon-cutting celebration for the new Mental Health Urgent Care Center on the Martin Luther King Jr. Medical Campus in Willowbrook.

She noted that her son is now out of prison but still suffers from mental health issues. “Jailing and warehousing our mentally ill is a human tragedy. But I am optimistic about the road ahead because of centers like this one.”

The newly refurbished two-story, 8,000-square-foot facility, which opened September 4,  is the latest milestone towards the completion of a wellness community on the MLK Medical Campus that brings preventive and emergency care services to the region.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas celebrates the new center.

“The opening of this center is part of a broader countywide drive to expand access to mental health services and substance abuse treatment for all those in need, particularly those at risk of incarceration,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who spearheaded the effort to bring the urgent care center to the MLK campus. “Facilities like this will be most effective in promoting rehabilitation and reducing recidivism.”

The center is a one-stop shop for families, individuals and law enforcement to bring a person suffering acute distress or an episode related to mental illness. Patients will receive a variety of services including psychiatric evaluation and assessment, crisis intervention, substance abuse counseling and medication support from an on-site team of experts from the county’s departments of mental health, social services, health services and public health. Adults will have a separate wing, divided by gender. Twelve to 17-year-olds will be admitted into a separate wing of the center. While there is an emphasis on serving the indigent and Medi-Cal patients, no one will be turned away.

Data has shown that nearly 50 percent of the patients in the former King/Drew Emergency Room had primary or secondary mental health issues. The Urgent Care Center provides a more cost effective and humane way to treat people with mental illness.

Although there are 15 medical professionals on staff 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it is not a sterile, cold and clinical setting. In fact, with its wood laminate floors, soothing yellow walls, cozy sleeping chairs and clean bathrooms, in the recovery area,it is more like a nice family living room where patients can stay for up to 24 hours.

Community leaders and elected officials celebrate.

“Twenty-four hours a day, you can bring in your loved one in,” said Luana Murphy, President/CEO of Exodus Recovery and Exodus Foundation for Recovery, which will operate the center. “Services here will be integrated. After they are discharged, no one will be sent to the street. We will have a plan.”

The Urgent Care Center will play an important role in the county’s efforts to redirect mentally ill offenders away from jails, where people with untreated illnesses currently constitute a substantial portion of the population.

Terri McDonald, Assistant Sheriff, Los Angeles County Sheriff Department

Terri McDonald, Assistant Sheriff, Los Angeles County Sheriff Department

“It takes a village and mentally ill citizens are some of our most vulnerable,” said Terri McDonald, assistant sheriff of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. “We can be proud of this step forward in reducing our reliance on jails to deal with our mentally ill.”

The center will be run by Exodus Foundation for Recovery, which has been providing psychiatric services in Southern California since 1989. The urgent care center brings additional medical services to the Martin Luther King Jr. Medical Center Campus, which already include the MLK Outpatient Center and Center for Public Health. The hospital is scheduled to open next year.

“Today, we move one step closer to the MLK Medical Campus we’ve been waiting for,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, Director of Community and Integrated Programs for the Department of Health Services, noting that the center is a model of recovery and urgent care for mental health centers throughout the region.“It is this image that makes me excited to be here today as we look forward to the services Exodus will provide with its many campus partners for years to come.”

 

 

Creating a New Hub for Child Safety

mlk hub1

Continuing the push to protect children in the child welfare system, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has approved the development of a comprehensive plan to build a new Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Hub in Willowbrook.

The new MLK Medical Hub’s mission will be to have medical and child welfare professionals provide medical and mental health services for children at risk of abuse and neglect. The MLK Hub will be the first of the county’s six hubs to receive an expansion so they can provide more intensive services to at risk children, especially those under two years of age.

The plan for the new MLK Hub, which will be located on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus, is expected to include funding options, a timeline for relocation and space where behavioral mental health services can be provided on site. The current, 41-year-old location for the MLK Medical Hub is in terrible condition, with warped floorboards, a leaking roof and dysfunctional heating and air cooling systems.

The improvement of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Hub was initiated as part of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection’s recommendations.

“We are determined to make child safety a top priority,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who authored the motion. “We must support and protect the most vulnerable in our society. This hub will create a safety net for these children so they will be kept out of harm’s way.”

Established in June 2013, the Blue Ribbon Commission was chaired by David Sanders, of the Casey Family Programs foundation, and was made up of 10 child welfare experts appointed by each member of the Board of Supervisors. In June 2014, the commission presented a list of 40 recommendations that would improve child welfare services, including giving more money to relatives who care for children in foster care, providing better medical care for children removed from their homes and improving medical screening of infants who may be at risk.

Recovery Center on MLK Medical Campus

 

MLK HospitalHoping to reduce emergency room overcrowding and decrease the costs of keeping stabilized homeless patients in expensive hospital beds, the Board of Supervisors approved $3.7-million in funding for a new recovery center on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus in Willowbrook.

The MLK Recovery Center, which is expected to open by early next year, will accept patients who are clinically stable and ready for discharge, but who remain hospitalized because they are homeless. The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services loses millions of dollars each year because Medicaid (and other insurers) do not cover the cost of lengthy hospital bed stays for indigent patients. In addition, there is a shortage of places in Los Angeles County where these patients can stay while they recuperate.

The MLK Recovery Center will be housed in the former dormitory for Charles Drew University medical students on the MLK Campus. It will serve as an immediate discharge option for the County’s entire hospital network, which includes four County-run hospitals and the privately-run MLK Community hospital.

The recovery center will be open 24-hours, 7-days per week, with staff providing meals, security, transportation, health services and other social services, such as housing support. It will serve approximately 900 to 1,400 patients per year countywide.

“I applaud the Department of Health Services for its innovation and leadership,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who authored the motion to fund the recovery center. “This project will save lives, heal bodies and save dollars. I want to be certain that every patient sent to recovery is connected to the services she or he needs to be stabilized so they can hopefully find a home.”

Local Worker Gets Second Chance

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.”

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution at MLK Outpatient Center

Eight-year-old Kelso Gaines proudly examined the plate of food before him. Then he ate every last bite of the freshly made spaghetti and meatballs—even though it was barely 9 a.m. – and declared he had never tasted a better red sauce than the one he had just made with garlic, basil and tomatoes

“It was the best because I was the chef and my classmates were too,” said Gaines, a second grader at the Barack Obama Charter School in South Los Angeles. “This tastes so good because of all the good stuff we put in it.”

That is exactly the kind of attitude that celebrity chef Jamie Oliver hopes to impart with his Big Rig Teaching Kitchen, a mobile kitchen with seven cooking stations that has traveled throughout California on a mission to teach children and their families how to prepare healthy, homemade meals. Oliver knows that if kids make it, they are more likely to eat it.

The Big Rig will be setting up shop at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Outpatient Center until April 25, taking in local school children, families, groups and anyone else interested in learning the basics of good cooking. Although Oliver is not on hand to cook, he was there in spirit.

The Big Rig Teaching Kitchen, which launched in South Los Angeles three years ago, will roll into other communities with the message that healthy eating is easy fun and empowering.

“When children make their own food, something magical happens,” said Scott Bottemer, operations manager for the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation. “They eat what they prepare. Our mantra is educate, empower and inspire.”

Recent reports suggest that this generation of children will be the first in the history of the U.S. to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents—if eating habits and lifestyle choices don’t change.

The Big Rig’s recent stop at the new Outpatient Center, set to open this spring, was not by accident. As part of its mission, the new Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital and Outpatient Center will form part of a wellness campus that emphasizes prevention and healthy lifestyles.

As he stirred some eggs and bread crumbs into the ground beef for the meatballs, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas told the crowd of students that healthy eating would keep them out of the hospital.

“Eating well keeps you feeling better,” he said. “Now when you go home, you can show your families how to cook.”

Indeed, stirring spoon in hand, seven-year-old Akeyla Tate wiggled with anticipation at the thought of the delectable spaghetti sauce and freshly made meatball recipe she would be showing off to her family.

“Now, I get to go home and say to my mom, “Can I fix something for you?” smiled Tate.

To sign up for classes please visit: http://bit.ly/1qri54k