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Net meets street to defeat STDs: County home STD testing program employs cutting-edge technology

On Monday, September 19, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas launched a high-tech outreach effort to tackle sexually transmitted diseases in the Second Supervisorial District, where STD levels are the highest in the County.

The statistics painted a stark picture: STD levels in the Second Supervisorial District are the highest in the County, with hot spots centered in South Los Angeles, and Los Angeles County has the highest number of chlamydia cases and the second-highest number of gonorrhea cases of any county in the nation. More than 30,000 women and girls acquire infections every year, with younger women most heavily affected. In 2010, there were 20,337 chlamydia cases and 2,136 gonorrhea cases reported in females ages 15-24.  With the goal of overcoming barriers to diagnosis and treatment, the County launched its award-winning “I Know” home test kit program in 2009, Monday, at the new Martin Luther King Jr. Public Health Center, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and the Department of Public Health are rolling out cutting-edge enhancements to the program: New digital tablets and touch-screen kiosks now make home testing kits more widely and immediately available to women. Women who use the kiosks or digital tablets to order a kit will be able to receive their kit on the spot, without waiting for it to arrive by mail. All “I Know” materials and the website are available in both English and Spanish, and there is no cost to use the home testing program.  Kiosks will be placed at selected venues in the Second District; digital tablets will be put in the hands of trained outreach workers at a wide variety of locations. Both kiosks and tablets will enable secure access to the program’s website to record kit orders, so that women can later obtain their results from the program website, or by calling a toll-free number. Women throughout the County will continue to be able to order kits from the www.DontThinkKnow.org website, or by calling the County STD Program’s toll-free hotline number, 1-800-758-0880, to have test kits sent to them by mail.

“Unfortunately, these infectious diseases are at unacceptable levels and are increasing, particularly among young African-American women,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “These are our mothers, our sisters, our daughters who are suffering from the health consequences of these STDs, and we cannot let them go untreated. Families depend upon them, communities depend upon them, but you can’t treat what you don’t know exists.

“The “I Know” program has a track record of success,” the Supervisor continued, “so we come together today to encourage women who may be afraid — who likely have no symptoms, but who have made some choices that put them at risk — to take that first step toward getting help and taking a test right in the privacy of their own homes.”  LA County Health Officer Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding concurred: “Easy diagnostic testing and effective single-dose treatments mean that there is no reason for anyone now to suffer infertility, tubal pregnancy, complications for newborns, or other serious long-term consequences of these unnecessarily common STDs.” With most cases being asymptomatic, regular screening by sexually active individuals is the only effective way to stop the spread of the these infections, said Dr. Fielding. Chlamydia and gonorrhea are curable, but treatment does not prevent subsequent infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that sexually active women age 25 and younger be screened for chlamydia once per year.  The “I Know” home testing program has been a true success. In its first year the website received 30,878 total visits and 2,927 kits were ordered. A total of 1,543 testable swabs were returned, of which 131 (8.5%) were positive for chlamydia or gonorrhea.

“This program has been incredibly successful in promoting testing and finding STD cases,” said the Dr. Peter Kerndt, STD Program Director at the department, noting that few clinics can show a comparable rate of case detection, and that none can perform testing for such a broad cross-section of at-risk women. In addition, according to Dr. Kerndt, not all women can or will access a clinic, due to lack of transportation, privacy fears, or the lack of symptoms typical of these STDs. The launch of the new program coincides with the imminent opening of the new Martin Luther King, Jr Center for Public Health, at the corner of Wilmington and 120th Street, a County public health facility that went from ground-breaking to completion in less than one year.  According to Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, the expanded “I Know” program epitomizes the potential of public health, and dovetails with the mission of the new health center, in the 21st century.

“You can see that we have a community engagement room in this new health center, which opens large bay doors directly to the outside for large-scale events,” he said. “Like those bay doors, this health center will open the potential for public health far beyond its own walls: the “I Know” program will now be everywhere that we can put a kiosk, everywhere any partnering community agency can send an outreach worker with a tablet, and anywhere a woman has access to a computer or any phone. But for those who need treatment or follow-up exams, this new health center has its doors wide open.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas noted that the expansion of “I Know” is also linked to a comprehensive strategy, further extending linkages from clinics to the surrounding community. Other elements of the comprehensive strategy include an increase in community-based public health workers to follow-up on cases and ensure treatment of women and their partners, school education programs, clinic referral guides for high school and middle school students, a County authorized use of a mobile van for outreach and distribution of condoms and partnerships with community-based agencies, as well as faith-based organizations. These partnerships will put tablets in the hands of trained community outreach workers to deliver home test kits in the communities most impacted by these infections. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas emphasized that public health is a critical investment that local government must make, because there is no other entity to do so.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas also hosted a breakfast on September 1, 2011 for some of the leaders from the ecumenical community to enlist their support for his initiative. The poignant discussions has resulted in the First Ladies of the Faith-based community taking a stand on this issue and offering a well-thought out plan to work with the Second District and the Department of Public Health to empower young women to take charge of their overall health and well-being.  Previous evaluation of “I Know” conducted by the County’s STD Program showed that women ages 18-25 (all eligible for the home testing program) who had seen “I Know” marketing materials were more than 1.5 times more likely to have been tested for Chlamydia and gonorrhea in the past six months. The program also received an achievement award in 2010 from the National Association of Counties.

In 2010, there were 44,648 total reported cases of chlamydia and 9,501 total cases of gonorrhea among L.A. County residents. Among diseases with mandated reporting requirements, chlamydia and gonorrhea are the two most commonly reported infectious diseases in the United States.

About eight kiosks will be placed around South Los Angeles. Test-takers are able to get their test results online or by calling 1-800-758-0880.

Press Release (PDF)
Gonorrhea Cases (PDF)
Chlamydia and Gonorrhea (PDF)
I Know Posters (PDF)


September 20, 2011

September 19, 2011

Supervisor honored at PVJOBS annual luncheon

Playa Vista Job Opportunities and Business Services (PVJOBS) brought together over 500 labor, business and community leaders to honor top workers and supporters at its annual Recognition Luncheon at the Cathedral Plaza in downtown Los Angeles.  This year was titled “Building New Careers & New Lives.” PVJOBS is a non-profit corporation created in 1998 to fulfill a Los Angeles City Council mandate: provide construction employment opportunities for at-risk local residents at the Playa Vista development site.  Today, as a result of their advocacy, PVJOBS works with several major construction projects.

[pullquote_right]”It’s about empowering individuals, strengthening families, and building communities,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.[/pullquote_right]Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas received a special recognition as a “Visionary of the Year” at the luncheon.  Kevin Sherrod was honored as “Intern of the Year”, Nathan Covington, as “Employee of the Year” for his work on the new Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital, Jennie Garcia as “Employee of the Year”, and Hathaway Dinwiddie was honored as “Contractor of the Year.”

There are currently more than 100 community-based organizations providing life skills training to hard-to-serve individuals and referring them to PVJOBS for employment.  Together with collaborators, PVJOBS provides an array of supportive services to enable client success.  All referrals to PVJOBS are maintained in a database.  As employment opportunities become available, PVJOBS queries the database and makes referrals to employers.

Since most of the employment opportunities are construction and trade union affiliated, candidates are prepared for a union entry along with the cost of special tools and clothing barrier to employment.  PVJOBS makes supportive services available to cover these costs for clients.

PVJOBS is committed to supplying a minimum of 3000 hours work to each candidate.  This is accomplished by re-referral to similar trade work upon contract completion and subsequent lay off.  To date, PV JOBS has filled over 3,500 construction positions with more than 1000 contractors and a success rate of 89.5%.

For more information about PVJOBS, please visit pvjobs.org.

Push for local jobs in the second district

Support a Project Labor Agreement for the Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail Line at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority meeting on September 22, 2011. The Metro Board of Directors will vote on a proposal to establish an agency-wide Project Labor Agreement (PLA) to implement the new Construction Careers Policy at Metro.  The Construction Careers Policy and the PLA will ensure that at least 30% of total construction hours worked on a project are performed by residents targeted from areas characterized by high unemployment along project routes and within L.A. County.

Metro Board Room, 3rd Floor
One Gateway Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Thursday, September 22, 2011, 9:00 AM

Other items of interest on the agenda:

  • Approval of the final Environmental Impact Report for the Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail Line
  • Adoption of an agency-wide Renewable Energy Policy that will impact the Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail Line

RSVP: Melissa Hernandez at MIHernandez@bos.lacounty.gov

Let your presence be your voice!


[Download the flyer here.]

It’s official. Construction for phase 2 of the Expo line begins.

Shovels in hand and hard hats on, the nine member Expo board punctured the dirt commencing the construction of Phase 2 of the Expo Line. The groundbreaking of Phase 2 initiates construction for the portion of the Expo Line that will run from Culver City to Santa Monica and connect to Phase 1. In the next few months, Phase 1 will run from downtown Los Angeles to Culver City. Phase 2, scheduled to open in 2015, will run from Culver City to Santa Monica. Once completed, the 15.2 mile Expo line will give commuters the option of traveling from downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica by rail and pass through 19 station stops, including ones at the University of Southern California, Exposition Park, the Mid-City Communities, the Crenshaw District, Culver City, and West Los Angeles; the line also will connect to the upcoming Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor.  According to Expo staff, by 2030, approximately 64,000 passengers will ride the Expo Transit Line each day, making it one of the most heavily used light rail lines in the country.  Aside from connecting communities on the Westside to downtown Los Angeles, the Expo Line is expected to shorten commutes, lower greenhouse gas emissions from cars, provide fast and reliable public transportation services and increase the number of commuters who use the public transportation in Los Angeles County.

Of its notable attributes, construction for Phase 2 of the Expo Line is the first transit project in recent memory with a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) and Construction Careers Policy, mandated by the Expo Board.

[pullquote_right] “In short, this is an opportunity for taxpayers to benefit from their own tax dollars,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.[/pullquote_right]The Construction Careers Policy and the PLA ensure that at least 30% of total construction hours are from residents who live within five miles of Phases 1 and 2 of the project and within L.A. County zip codes where unemployment is high. In addition, this provision sets aside job opportunities for disadvantaged workers, such as those who are homeless, are high school drop-outs or who have criminal records.

“It is vitally important that our transportation developments dovetail with economic development as much as possible, and this transit project will not only improve the quality of life for thousands of commuters, it will also provide the community with much needed jobs,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “In short, this is an opportunity for taxpayers to benefit from their own tax dollars.”

In mid-March Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and City Councilman Herb Wesson championed the implementation of a Project Labor Agreement and Construction Careers Policy for Phase 2 of the Expo Line. The hiring provisions will serve to ensure local residents have access to the thousands of jobs created by the $1.5 billion Expo line rail project.


Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas on LA County redistricting

When redrawing the boundaries of the County, we have a constitutional obligation to follow the law, including and specifically the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Why is that particular piece of law so important for us to keep in mind? Because the Board has a record of failing to do so. We failed to be guided by its requirements in the 1990s and as a result, the courts re-drew the lines of our districts for us.

That should be a sobering memory.

We should make every effort to avoid having any other entity engage is what is the
fundamental responsibility of the Board — redistricting the County in a way that adheres
to the law.

I understand the concerns engendered by the prospect of change — by the prospect of
new communities and new borders; these concerns are natural and understandable. The
purpose of redistricting, however, is neither to preserve the status quo nor to engage in
social engineering. It is to undertake a dispassionate appraisal of the County’s
population and to re-draw lines according to what is required by law.

So I want to address the recent accusations that the maps submitted by myself and Supervisor Gloria Molina — maps that create a second Latino-majority district — are the
products of racial gerrymandering. There is no such effort or intention to do so. It is incumbent upon the Board, however, to acknowledge the growth of the Latino population in the County, to re-draw the lines in accordance with that growth and most importantly,
to avoid a repetition of past mistakes.

[Download the complete statement here.]
[Download the full Community Empowerment Plan S2 Map here.] [For more general information on redistricting, visit the LA County Redistricting site.]

Below is commentary made by Lynwood Mayor, Aide Castro, and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher partner, George Brown on the September 6 board meeting.