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


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.


Sobering Center to Open on Skid Row

Sobering Center Floor Plan (Maple Street)

Los Angeles County is poised to open its first Sobering Center on Skid Row to divert homeless alcoholics away from jails and emergency rooms, and onto a path toward healing.

Currently, police officers cite or arrest severely intoxicated homeless individuals who pose a danger to themselves or others. Firefighters and paramedics, meanwhile, transport them by ambulance to a hospital, and then wait hours for them to be admitted into the ER.

Many homeless individuals with chronic alcoholism bounce back and forth between the streets of Skid Row and emergency room at LAC+USC Medical Center as many as 50 times a year.

To break that destructive cycle, the Board of Supervisors approved a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Hilda Solis to open a Sobering Center in Skid Row.

“This is a smart approach designed to save taxpayer dollars, improve the downtown area, free up scarce emergency resources and help the homeless heal,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “These are the types of efforts that the County needs to expand and scale up.”

“As the County looks for innovative solutions to address chronic homelessness, I am pleased to join Supervisor Ridley-Thomas on this motion,” Supervisor Solis said.  The Sobering Center will serve as an appropriate alternative to the costly cycle of streets, jails, and emergency room visits. With County-employed health professionals and service providers on site, it is my hope we can reduce the number of individuals on the streets and connect them with the resources they need to make positive changes.”

The Sobering Center will occupy a 9,500-sq. ft. facility recently vacated by Department of Mental Health. It would be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and accommodate approximately 8,000 visits a year.

Severely intoxicated homeless individuals are expected to stay an average of 8-23 hours at the Sobering Center. Once they have sobered up, they would be linked to substance abuse treatments, housing and other services.

“The Sobering Center will provide a safe and healing environment that can begin to address addiction and other causes of homelessness, and provide an alternative to repeated incarceration and hospitalization,” said county Health Director Mitch Katz. “It is an important step toward the county’s broader effort to divert non-violent offenders away from the criminal justice system.”

Los Angeles Fire Department medical director Marc Eckstein said, “the growing problem of providing emergency medical services for the serially inebriated poses a challenge.” He expressed hope the Sobering Center would help chronic alcoholics “finally break their tragic cycle of dependency.”

Even members of the business community support the plan. “This is a compassionate and cost-effective solution to the problem of public intoxication on Skid Row, and one that gives homeless alcohol-dependent individuals a chance to receive mental health, addiction, social work and operational services,” said Carol Schatz, president and CEO of the Central City Association, which has more than 450 members employing more than 350,000 people in the Los Angeles region. “This is one small, but very important step, to help Los Angeles County’s homeless population and provide a clear path for recovery for those suffering from alcoholism on Skid Row.”

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Homeless Encampments in Skid Row

Online Mental Health for Youth

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Youth struggling with post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression and other challenging issues can now get the mental health treatment they need without leaving home.

The Board of Supervisors authorized a contract with the University of Southern California to provide online mental health – also called tele-mental health – servicing youth and adults ages 12-to-21, who manifest mild-to-moderate psychiatric symptoms.

Under the program, County Department of Mental Health social workers at the Martin Luther King, Jr. medical hub and similar facilities would refer youth to a completely virtual behavioral health clinic operated by USC Telehealth and USC’s School of Social Work. The youth would then consult with licensed clinical social workers or Masters of Social Work interns via a secure HIPAA-compliant Internet platform – all they have to do is turn on their home computer, laptop or tablet, or a loaner iPad provided by the program.

“This is a novel way to help at-risk youth,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “The program makes critically needed early intervention easily accessible and convenient to youth, by using technology familiar to them.”

“With this innovative project, we will finally be able to stay in easy and immediate touch with those youth who so much need to hear from us as they struggle with trauma and troubled family life,” USC School of Social Work Dean Marilyn Flynn said. “This advance will allow us to reach out to every neighborhood in Los Angeles, at any time of day, to offer support, expert guidance and referral. The county has truly made possible a new form of care that should help these youth meet challenges in a more resilient way.”

The program would serve youth who have come to the attention of the child welfare system, but still remain at home, and young adults up to age 21, including those who are transitioning out of foster care. These individuals may have suffered or witnessed trauma, such as sexual abuse, domestic violence, neglect or traumatic loss, and are experiencing emotional or behavioral challenges.