Fostering Community Health and Wellness

Radio 1 (1 of 1)-6More than a thousand schoolchildren are returning to school with free backpacks, thanks to  Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and community organizations in South Los Angeles, which teamed up to host back-to-back events fostering health and wellness.

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Kids dance at the Community Health and Resource Fair

The Walk4Health, Back2School Backpack Giveaway, and Community Health and Resource Fair all coincided with National Health Center Week, intended to celebrate America’s innovators in community health.

“We take time to commemorate National Health Center Week and recognize community health centers for delivering comprehensive, high-quality preventive and primary health care to patients regardless of their ability to pay,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

IMG_0675The two-mile Walk 4 Health started at St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, continued to UMMA Clinic, and ended at Mt. Carmel Recreation Center where about 80 vendors offered medical, developmental and mental health screenings, pro bono legal clinics, and educational workshops.

The fair also featured fun activities, including arts and crafts, pony rides, a petting zoo, bouncy house, gaming stations, music, free food, and a raffle that included an iPad among the prizes.

More than 1,2000 children and teens received free backpacks during the Back 2 School event co-sponsored by the Special Needs Network (SNN), California’s leading grassroots autism advocacy organization, for an afternoon filled with family-friendly fun and critical socialization.

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Walk 4 Health

“We began Back 2 School to provide underserved children and youths with the tools essential for school success,” SNN president and cofounder Areva Martin, Esq., said. “Today, we address not only academic needs, but health and wellness as well.”

Other event partners included Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, the Southside Coalition of Community Health Centers, St. John’s Well Child and Family Center and UMMA Clinic.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital 1st Anniversary

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas hosted medical campus leadership and staff for a celebration of the First Anniversary of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital.

“Employees and the staff here matter,” the Supervisor said.

The 131-bed community hospital opened its doors last month, eight years after the closure of the King/Drew Medical Center. Its mission: providing compassionate, innovative and quality care to the 1.35 million residents of South Los Angeles – regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay.

“We can celebrate a gorgeous building with 60,000 patients coming through the emergency room every year,” said Manuel Abascal, chairman of the hospital’s Board of Directors.

Los Angeles County invested $284 million to build the hospital, and provided another $171 million in startup funding before handing off responsibility for day-to-day operations to the private nonprofit Martin Luther King, Jr. Los Angeles Healthcare Corporation.

“I’m so proud of all of you for making this dream come true,” said Dr. John Fisher, Chief Medical Officer of Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital.

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Dream Parking at MLK Medical Campus

View a visualization of the new parking structure from McCarthy Building Companies.

Recently, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the budget for a comprehensive parking structure to be added to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus.

“The parking structure represents the next phase of the County’s effort to reinvent the MLK Medical Campus,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

The new parking structure will include six levels and 1,400 parking spaces to respond to the current parking challenges on campus. The plan includes an entry roadway to the campus, reconfiguration of Wilmington Avenue adjacent to the site, construction of the parking structure, and civic art. The build also includes a program to promote the hiring of local construction workers.

“The proposed MLK Parking Structure is a good investment and reaffirms the County’s commitment to build a first-class wellness campus to serve the larger community,” the Supervisor said.

LA County Audit Saves Millions of Dollars

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Los Angeles County is poised to save about $25 million after conducting an audit that ensured its employees’ healthcare plans went only to eligible dependents.

Acting on a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Board of Supervisors awarded scrolls to the Department of Human Resources (DHR), which led the Dependent Eligibility Verification process, and to other agencies, including labor unions, contractors and consultants that supported the effort.

“This is particularly important as the County spends nearly $1.1 billion on subsidized health benefits for employees and their dependents,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.

“As the County continues to look for efficiencies and strategies to offer quality benefits that are cost effective for both employees and the County, I thank the Department of Human Resources and all of the individuals and teams who made this Dependent Eligibility Verification such a successful endeavor,” he added.

DHR Director Lisa Garrett described the audit as a “joint effort with the collaboration of many.”

“I want to thank all of our partners for making this project a huge success,” she said after the scroll presentation at the Hall of Administration. “Thank you for assisting us to uphold our fiduciary and fiscal duties to the employees, the County, and the public we are privileged t to serve.”

To control costs and ensure the sustainability of the County’s health benefits system, DHR reached out to the 63,000 employees who listed spouses, domestic partners and/or children as dependents. It asked them to submit marriage and birth certificates or other documents as proof of their continuing relationship.

DHR collaborated with SEIU Local 721 and the Coalition of LA County Unions to get the word out about the review, and tapped HMS Employer Solutions with Unisource to verify the documents. The Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk also assisted in the verification.

The process resulted in a 3.4 percent reduction in ineligible covered dependents, saving the County $7.8 million in 2015 and $17.8 million in 2016.

Growing Urban Gardens

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To increase the supply of fruits and vegetables in “food desert” communities, the Board of Supervisors adopted an ordinance creating a tax incentive for urban farming.

6939148938_b745c45ea6_zUnder the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone Ordinance, property owners in Los Angeles County’s unincorporated areas can get a discount on their property taxes – if they set aside a portion of their land for agricultural purposes, increasing the supply of fresh produce in their community.

“It will be a carrot – literally and figuratively – to incentivize new sources of produce within food deserts, eliminate urban blight, and promote community engagement,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who authored the motion to adopt the ordinance, implementing AB 155 or the California Urban Agriculture Incentives Zone Act.

6939149476_7b297555c1_z (1)He said the ordinance should be of particular benefit to those living in food deserts, which are communities that do not have any nearby supermarkets or grocery stores selling fresh produce. Food deserts tend to have higher rates of obesity and diabetes.

The Assessor has estimated almost 57,000 parcels throughout Los Angeles County, including almost 8,000 in unincorporated areas, would be eligible for the program. Those living in incorporated areas can participate in the program after their respective city adopts a resolution.