Free Medical, Dental and Vision Care for Thousands of Angelenos

Photos by Sally Ryan

Three thousand residents from underserved communities in Los Angeles County sought free healthcare at this year’s second Care Harbor mega-clinic. This marked the eighth annual clinic in Los Angeles County responsible for 101,000 medical, dental, and vision services. This year, Care Harbor introduced a pilot program to bring homeless people into the clinic providing care and services for 450 homeless people.

“Los Angeles County has 750,000 uninsured residents,” said Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas. “Care Harbor is a demonstration of compassion – providing free care to our most vulnerable residents. With the future of health care uncertain and 58,000 homeless Los Angeles County residents, the need for free care has never been greater.”

Care Harbor, a nonprofit, volunteer-based charity kicked off its three-day massive Los Angeles clinic at The REEF in Downtown Los Angeles on November 17. While uncertainty around the Affordable Care Act continues in the nation’s capital, preparations are underway for a second Care Harbor clinic this year to provide medical, dental, vision, and preventive care to thousands of the L.A. community’s most vulnerable — people with nowhere to turn for the healthcare they need.

“In this time of significant challenge for healthcare, this is our most ambitious clinic yet,” said Don Manelli, president of Care Harbor. “We are expanding both capacity and services, and launching new initiatives in response to L.A. County’s emerging healthcare needs. This Care Harbor LA clinic has a capacity of 1,000 to 1,200 patients per day, more than our previous events.”

In addition, Care Harbor is planning a pilot program for the homeless, working with local missions, clinics and County agencies. The initiative includes post-clinic engagement and follow-up care, all of which are special challenges for homeless people.

“Homelessness is not only the defining moral and civic issue facing our region, it is also a health crisis that affects us all,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor and Board Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas. “Healthcare plays a critical role in making homeless people and fractured communities whole again.”

Several new initiatives were added to the November Clinic including a partnership with the L.A. County Department of Public Health to offer Hepatitis A vaccines as a way to address the recent outbreak of Hepatitis A in the County. More than 40 percent of patients who attended the January 2017 Care Harbor LA clinic were found to be obese or severely obese, placing them at high risk. Care Harbor will record blood glucose and BMI data for all patients, provide interdisciplinary specialty exams, and offer dietary counseling to pre-diabetic, diabetic and at-risk patients.

Along with these new initiatives, Care Harbor continued to offer a full range of healthcare services, provided by nearly 3,000 volunteers. Patients needing follow-up care were connected to medical homes in the community, receiving appointments before leaving the venue.

“Most of those who come to Care Harbor are working poor, uninsured or without coverage for needed care,” said Manelli. “We work not only to meet their immediate healthcare needs, but also to provide them with the sustainable care that can lead to a healthier life.”

To date, Care Harbor has provided care conservatively valued at $15,848,600 based on mean regional costs of care (Medicare reimbursement) – a figure that does not include off-site lab services, follow-up care, or prevention resources offered at the event.