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Sickle Cell Clinic Celebrates 1st Anniversary at MLK

All photos by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Outpatient Center celebrates the first anniversary of its Sickle Cell Disease Clinic to serve adults suffering from this painful and sometimes deadly blood condition. It is estimated there are 5,100 sickle cell patients in Southern California, most of whom are African American. Sickle cell disease can lead to numerous complications, including anemia, recurring pain episodes, respiratory troubles, and even death.

“It has been a great year for advancing treatment of sickle cell disease in the County of Los Angeles,” said Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas at the clinic’s recent celebration of its first year in operation.

Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new medication called Endari that was developed by researcher Dr. Yutaka Niihara from LA Biomed and the Harbor UCLA faculty to help treat the condition.

Once thought of as a childhood illness, sickle cell disease is also common among adults since many with this condition are now living into adulthood thanks to improved treatments. But it can be challenging to find clinics with the expertise and resources to appropriately manage patients with this complex condition.

“Adults with sickle cell disease deserve health care providers that understand the disease, its complications, and their pain. Knowing the people who worked hard to open this clinic gives me confidence it will meet the community’s needs,” said Mary Brown, Director of the Sickle Cell Disease Foundation of California.

The new clinic is the first new focused facility in decades built to serve adults in Los Angeles County with sickle cell disease.

Strengthening PACE Financing
to Benefit Californians

California has long been an engine of American innovation, developing new products, services and media that create enormous value locally and across the world. Yet, even by the standards of our inventive state, the home-grown PACE financing industry has produced incredibly positive results.

Pioneered here in the Golden State, Property Assessed Clean Energy financing – or PACE –empowers homeowners to finance the full cost of certain clean energy, water and energy efficiency, and earthquake-resistance upgrades to their homes through repayment over time as a line item on their property tax bill.

To date, hundreds of thousands of Americans have seen this as a win-win, allowing for cost-effective improvements that green the environment. Just in LA County alone, the environmental and economic benefits from the PACE program have far exceeded expectations:

  • PACE has cut water consumption in LA County by more than 13 million gallons each year [1], enough water for more than 762,000 showers [2].
  • PACE has reduced LA County’s need for fossil fuels by more than 105 million kWh of energy each year [3], combining solar generation with efficiency measures. Over the lifetime of these improvements, that is equivalent to taking more than 10,000 cars off the road [4].
  • PACE has also created jobs: Since the program’s launch, by driving $486 million in economic activity, PACE has created more than 4,800 jobs in Los Angeles County – jobs that pay well and can never be outsourced [5].

To ensure that PACE financing remains a force for good in our communities, state policy makers should now strengthen consumer protections. Addressing this need is State Senator Nancy Skinner’s Senate Bill 242 (SB 242) and State Assemblymember Matt Dababneh’s Assembly Bill 1284 (AB 1284).

SB 242 establishes important statewide consumer projects to govern the PACE Program throughout the financing process. First, before the homeowner completes the PACE financing process, SB 242 will require PACE administrators to call every single PACE financing applicant to confirm the terms of financing– avoiding possible misunderstandings as to how and when repayment will occur. This live, recorded phone call is in addition to a written disclosure of the property owner’s PACE financing terms that every applicant must review and sign. And even if the homeowner reviews all this information, applies for PACE, and then has a change of heart, they remain securely protected: SB 242 requires a 3-day right to cancel.

SB 242 also makes it illegal for PACE program administrators to pay financial “kickbacks” or other marketing incentives to contractors to push their PACE program. And it makes it illegal for PACE program administrators to pay financial incentives to homeowners.

AB 1284 further builds on PACE consumer protections by establishing the Department of Business Oversight as the regulatory authority over PACE program administrators and their contractors.  Specifically, PACE Administrators would be licensed by the Department of Business Oversight who would have authority to bring enforcement actions against PACE Administrators and anyone soliciting a property owner for a PACE project.  The Commissioner would have fairly broad power to conduct investigations, assess fines, and suspend licenses.  Perhaps most importantly, AB 1284 would allow the Department of Business Oversight to develop an “ability-to-repay” determination for incorporation into the loan underwriting process.

With the standards included in SB 242 and AB 1284, the PACE industry is positioned to expand in a responsible and consumer-focused manner.  The Legislature should support SB 242 and AB 1284 to help keep California working, growing and innovating by supporting PACE financing.

[1] http://treasurer.ca.gov/caeatfa/pace/activity.asp

[2] Per EPA WaterSense: 18 gallons per average shower

[3] http://treasurer.ca.gov/caeatfa/pace/activity.asp

[4] https://www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-gas-equivalencies-calculator

[5] Information provided by PACE administrators

Training the Next Generation of Doctors

Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center CEO Jorge Orosco, Drew School of Medicine Dean Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith, and Drew University President Dr. David Carlisle testify before the Board in support of creating the residency programs. All photos by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors.

The Board of Supervisors has voted to create a residency program at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science that will train a new generation of doctors to serve patients in South Los Angeles and beyond.

Acting on a motion by Supervisor Janice Hahn and Board Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Board approved up to $800,000 in startup funds to establish residency programs in both psychiatry and family medicine, with the first class scheduled in June.

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. Meanwhile, family medicine residents will do their inpatient work at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey, and outpatient rotations at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Outpatient Center in Willowbrook.

“I believe that these residency programs will greatly help the County recruit homegrown doctors to serve our patients,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “I’m hopeful that many of these residents will also choose to stay with the County after they finish their residencies, reducing our reliance on contract physicians. ”

“Nationwide, we have a shortage of primary care clinicians, and the need is particularly acute in the communities surrounding Drew University,” Board Chairman Ridley-Thomas said. “I am hopeful that many of these trainees will opt to practice locally upon their graduation.”

Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith, dean of the Drew School of Medicine, said the residency programs would be a win for both patients and postgraduate medical students. “We bring not only our expertise and talent, but our dedication to developing a culturally competent physician workforce,” she said.

Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center CEO Jorge Orosco said, “This training program could, in the long term, serve as a pipeline for new attending physicians to join the medical staff at Rancho.”

Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science is an accredited Graduate Medical Education Sponsoring Institution. The Family Medicine residency is scheduled to begin in June with eight residents, and is expected to enroll 24 residents by 2020. The Psychiatry residency will also begin in June with four residents and is expected to enroll 16 residents by 2021.


Back to School, Health and Wellness

All photos by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors

Families got a chance to boost their health and wellness while kids got free back-to-school backpacks during a weekend of community events in South Los Angeles.

About 200 people participated in a two-mile Walk4Health co-sponsored by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, St. John’s Well Child and Family Center and UMMA Clinic. Thewalk began at St. John’s and concluded at the Mt. Carmel Recreation Center, where more than 2,000 people gathered for the Back2School Community Health and Resource Fair.

Los Angeles City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson helped to make the event a success by providing the venue free of charge and assisting with street closures.

Among the organizations offering financial assistance and free medical, dental and mental health screenings were HealthNet, the Southside Coalition of Community Health Centers (Central City Community Health Center, Eisner Pediatric & Family Medical Center, South CentralFamily Health Center, St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, T.H.E. (To Help Everyone) Health and Wellness Centers, UMMA Community Clinic, Watts Healthcare, Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, Trader Joe’s and the California Endowment.

The Special Needs Network, a nonprofit that seeks to raise public awareness of children’s developmental disabilities, handed out more than 1,500 backpacks and school supplies and provided free haircuts.

Throughout the fair, the crowd was treated to live entertainment, as well as free food and beverages. Children enjoyed a petting zoo, pony rides, face painting, arts and crafts and other activities. “This event is so important because it brings much needed health and dental services into a community that has a shortage of providers,” SNN founder and president Areva Martin said. “We know that our health is our wealth and by providing families with access to high quality health care services, we ensure a stronger and more vibrant community.”


County and Cities Team Up to Provide Permanent Supportive Housing

With funding from Measure H, Los Angeles County and its cities are teaming up to quickly place thousands of homeless people into permanent housing that comes with the supportive services, rental subsidies and other assistance needed to thrive.

The Board of Supervisors approved a motion by its Chairman, Mark Ridley-Thomas, and Supervisor Sheila Kuehl that creates a template for such joint County-city efforts. Under this partnership, the County will provide supportive services that would go hand in hand with rental subsidies and other assistance from cities.

LA Councilmen Marqueece Harris-Dawson and José Huizar, and peer advocate Reba Stevens speak at a press conference on County-city partnerships for the homeless.  Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors

To date, LA, Long Beach, Pasadena, Burbank, Glendale, Pomona and Redondo Beach have committed a combined total of 2,084 rental vouchers that can be distributed to the homeless. Using the template, the County can streamline the delivery of supportive services – which can include healthcare, mental health and substance abuse treatments, case management, even job training – to the beneficiaries of those rental vouchers.

LA County’s Community Development Commission is currently working with Compton, Santa Monica, Culver City and other cities to ensure their own assistance to the homeless is also matched with supportive services. This wide-ranging collaboration is unprecedented in the nation.

“Homelessness is the defining civic issue of our time and addressing it requires all hands on deck,” Chairman Ridley-Thomas said. “By working cooperatively, efficiently and urgently, the County and cities are not only taking people off the streets but also putting them on a path to long-term stability and recovery.”

Glendale City Councilmember Paula Devine and Burbank City Councilmember Sharon Springer testify, along with representatives of other cities, in favor of streamlining cooperation between cities and the County. Photo by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors

West Hollywood Mayor John Heilman said the key is providing permanent supportive housing as opposed to merely housing. “What we are seeing on the streets are people having problems with substance abuse and mental health issues and physical challenges, and we can’t get them the help that they need without both shelter and supportive services.”

LA City Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson said, “Homelessness tends not to recognize municipal boundaries, so it requires all of us – from neighborhood to neighborhood, block to block, city to city, council to council, mayor to mayor – to work together to end homelessness in our time.”

“Through the Supervisors’ commitment highlighted by today’s vote, people experiencing homelessness in LA County, including the City of LA, will get the wraparound and rental assistance services they need and deserve,” LA City Councilmember José Huizar said.

Measure H is intended to end homeless for 45,000 people across the County within the next five years, and prevent homelessness for another 30,000 people, including women and children, veterans, seniors, foster youth and survivors of domestic violence. The ¼-cent sales tax approved by voters in March is projected to raise $355 million annually for 10 years.

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