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MLK Community Hospital Draws Praise

A year and a half after its grand opening, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors commended the staff at Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital for providing such high quality care and for its efficient operation. The hospital has become one of the busiest in Los Angeles County, and is also drawing heartfelt praise from patients in an area the federal government had deemed medically underserved.

“We’re now on track to have 75,000 emergency department visits this year and it’s still going up – that’s twice what we projected prior to opening,” Dr. Elaine Batchlor, the hospital’s chief executive, testified before the Board of Supervisors.

“This is one of the busiest emergency departments in the County, despite the fact that we’re a small community hospital,” she added. “We have about 25 to 45 paramedic runs a day now.”

Dr. Batchlor said the recent flu season also brought in a surge of patients, adding, “We are completely full.”

mlk4With leadership from Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the 131-bed hospital opened in August 2016, promising compassionate, innovative and quality care to the residents of South Los Angeles – regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay. Its grand opening ceremony came eight years after the closure of troubled King/Drew Medical Center on the same medical campus in Willowbrook.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas congratulated the hospital administrators and staff, which currently numbers about 1,100. Dr. Batchlor noted 80 percent of the staff belongs to minority populations and, thanks to a local hiring preference policy, more than 50 percent of the staff lives within seven miles of the hospital.

“There’s nothing but good news here,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said at the Board meeting, which he chaired. “(The hospital administrators and staff) have done what we would have hoped, which is to open that hospital, serve patients well and hire a workforce that reflects the composition of the patients.”

At the Board meeting, Dr. Batchlor read aloud a few messages from patients at the hospital. “I found peace here,” she quoted one as saying. A second patient said, “I was scared when I arrived and even the doctor in the E.R. made me feel safe – so glad to have had them.” A third patient added, “Thank you for giving our community a great, great hospital.”

Supervisors Janice Hahn, Hilda Solis, Sheila Kuehl and Kathryn Barger all offered congratulations to the hospital administrators and Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “There’s no question that what we’re seeing today is a direct result of your hands-on commitment to the community,” she said.

The County’s Health Agency director, Dr. Mitch Katz, said the success of the hospital was due in part to the Affordable Care Act, which about 1.5 million County residents depend on for health insurance coverage. He warned against efforts to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, saying “We’re all concerned that major changes in the Medicaid expansion or the elimination of the (health insurance) exchanges will turn numbers back to where half of the people coming into MLK Community Hospital and others will be uninsured again.”

Paying Tribute to the late California Historian Kevin Starr

_3MZ0039Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas mourns the death of Dr. Kevin Starr, a noted California historian and visionary leader in the field of public education and literacy programs.

“The Golden State has a golden history and thanks to Dr. Starr we now have a wonderful record of our glorious past. He was a friend, a beloved history professor at USC and supporter of the Empowerment Congress, a national model for civic engagement. Dr. Starr provided an eloquent keynote address at the 15th anniversary of the Empowerment Congress Summit. My deepest condolences go out to his family and to the countless people he helped over the years through his steadfast commitment to educating the public.”

Acting on a motion by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas in September 2009, the Board of Supervisors honored Dr. Starr for his contributions to public education and longtime promotion of literacy.

Dr. Starr is best known for his multi-volume history of California, America and the California Dream. Dr. Starr served as the California State Librarian from 1994-2004 and was subsequently named as State Librarian Emeritus by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. In 2006, President George W. Bush awarded Dr. Starr the National Humanities Medal for his work as a scholar and historian.

Marching for the Right to Healthcare

Kingdom Day 2017

Photo by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas called for preserving the Affordable Care Act (ACA) while marching with dozens of Los Angeles County healthcare workers at the Kingdom Day Parade celebrating the life and legacy of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.

Kingdom Day 2017-5

Photo by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors

“(Dr. King) stood for healthcare as a right, not a privilege,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas declared as he walked the entire two-mile parade route brandishing a sign that said “Obamacare Works.” He noted 4.8 million Californians – including 1.5 million residents of Los Angeles County – could lose their health insurance coverage if President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare legislation is repealed.

“We must oppose all efforts to repeal the ACA, especially its provisions which expanded health insurance coverage,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “Certainly, any proposal to repeal without a replacement is reckless – it would be like blowing up a bridge while people are still on it.”

Kingdom Day 2017-2

Photo by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors

“If all or parts of the ACA are repealed, I support alternatives which would minimize the number of uninsured California residents and maximize federal funding with which to serve state residents,” he added.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas marched in the parade alongside the County’s Health Agency director Dr. Mitch Katz, plus dozens of doctors, nurses and other medical practitioners in their white lab coats.

“As a doctor, I know that the ACA has been critical for patients receiving the care they need,” Dr. Katz said. “Loss of the ACA is a loss of health and a guarantee of greater illness.”

An estimated 200,000 people lined the streets of South Los Angeles for the 32nd Annual Kingdom Day Parade, with the theme, “Now More than Ever, We All Must Work Together.” Billed as the nation’s largest and oldest Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration, the parade featured brass bands, descendants of the Tuskegee Airmen, Korean and Aztec dancers, clowns, and many more. It started at the intersection of Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. and Western Ave., and ended at the Freedom Fair festival at Leimert Park.


Photo by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas Issues Call to Action At 25th Annual Empowerment Congress Summit

IMG_0236Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas marked the 25th anniversary of the Empowerment Congress, a national model for civic engagement, by urging all citizens to continue the fight against homelessness, oppose the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and be vigilant against efforts to undermine their rights.

“Together, we have harnessed community advocacy and activism to influence government policy on a range of complex issues,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas told the nearly 1,500 people who attended the Empowerment Congress summit at USC. “Now, as we work to address the most defining civic issue of our time – homelessness – we must further strengthen our partnership.”

Voters in the March 7 election will consider Measure H, a quarter-cent sales tax that would raise about $355 million annually over a decade to provide rental assistance, subsidized healthcare, mental health and substance abuse treatments and other services to help people get off – and stay off – the streets.

Meanwhile, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said plans to undo the Affordable Care Act would be similar to “taking 30 million people off life support” across the U.S., including 1.5 million in Los Angeles County. He added, “It is imprudent from a fiscal perspective, impolitic from governance perspective, and inhumane.”

During the plenary session, U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra, who has been nominated to serve as California’s Attorney General, vowed to the crowd, “I stand with you.” Paraphrasing First Lady Michelle Obama, U.S. Rep. Nanette Barragán added, “Don’t be afraid, be empowered.” Meanwhile, NextGen Climate president Tom Steyer said, “Civic engagement is the bedrock of our democracy.”

Supervisor Janice Hahn described the Empowerment Congress as the forerunner of the neighborhood council movement and “fertile ground for passion and progress.” Supervisor Sheila Kuehl stressed the urgent need to work together for change, saying, “There’s no ‘I’ in empower.”

The plenary session included an original theatrical performance by the Robey Theatre Company that traced the origin and evolution of the Empowerment Congress.

Founded by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas in the wake of the 1992 civil unrest in Watts, the Empowerment Congress is a partnership among local residents and community leaders, as well as representatives of neighborhood groups, nonprofit organizations, businesses, religious institutions, and others. It has several committees that meet throughout the year to discuss various issues, and an annual summit with a plenary session and workshops that regularly draw about 1,500 people.

Inspiring Girls to Reach for the Stars

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Photo courtesy of the LA Promise Fund for Public Schools

Striving to inspire girls to reach for the stars – literally and figuratively – Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas joined Oscar winner Octavia Spencer (“The Help”), Grammy winner Pharrell Williams and Grammy nominee Janelle Monae in screening the acclaimed film Hidden Figures to nearly 10,000 middle and high school girls from across Los Angeles County.

Hidden Figures-3

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Octavia Spencer. Photo by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors

The LA Promise Fund for Public Schools sponsored the screening for Girls Build LA, an initiative that challenges middle and high school girls to better their communities. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, through a motion approved in September 2016, committed funding from the Board of Supervisors to transport the students from their respective campuses to USC’s Galen Center. He said, “It is important that we empower girls and women to break the glass ceilings that remain, particularly in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).”

Hidden Figures tells the story of African-American women mathematicians at NASA who were instrumental in launching astronaut John Glenn into orbit in the early 1960’s, despite the racial and gender discrimination that existed. Before the screening, Williams told the girls he decided to co-produce the film to “kill that very old school mentality that STEM is made for a male mind.”

Hidden Figures

Dr. Knatokie Ford, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Aldis Hodge and Pharrell Williams. Photo courtesy of LA Promise Fund for Public Schools

Spencer, who plays mathematician Dorothy Vaughn in the film, urged the girls to “be what you want to be and don’t allow anyone else to tell you that you can’t.” Her co-star Janelle Monae, who plays engineer Mary Jackson, spoke of how her mother had been a custodian and how she herself used to clean houses to earn money to go school. Monae also appears in Moonlight, which recently won Best Picture – Drama at the Golden Globes. “Take advantage of every opportunity,” she told the girls. “Embrace what makes you unique.”

The girls also listened to the success stories of White House senior science and technology policy advisor Dr. Knatokie Ford and NASA/JPL engineer Dr. Diana Trujillo, an immigrant from Colombia who didn’t know any English and had only $300 in her pocket when she arrived in the U.S. as a teenager, but now is among the leaders of the Curiosity Rover mission to Mars. They also heard inspiring messages from Hidden Figures actor Aldis Hodge, as well as astronaut Dr. Peggy Whitson, who delivered a video message from aboard the International Space Station.

Video courtesy of NBC Los Angeles.