It used to take Veronica Calbio 30 minutes by bus to get her children, Genesis, 2, and Abraham, 5, for a checkup at the nearest clinic in South Los Angeles. But with the recent opening of a new health center at St. John’s Well Child and Family Center on West 58th Street, a doctor’s visit is now only 10 minutes away from her home.
“It is so much better,” she said, sitting with her children in the waiting room of the Dr. Louis C. Frayser Health Center, “because I don’t have a car I can take the bus and be here faster for the kids’ check-ups and for the dentist. This is a good clinic.”
On the fourth anniversary of President Obama’s signing of the Affordable Care Act, St. John’s celebrated the grand opening of the S. Mark Taper Foundation Health and Wellness Campus, which includes the Frayser Health Center for children and mothers, and the S. Mark Taper Foundation Health and Wellness Center for adults. The campus, located between Vermont Avenue and Hoover Street, will provide additional services for more than 30,000 patients in some of South Los Angeles’ poorest communities.
The campus is a model of modern day health care delivery that brings the best available resources close to neighborhoods in need. South Los Angeles has among the highest rates of chronic diseases in California and hundreds of thousands of its residents are uninsured; more than a third live in poverty, and health officials estimate that 16 percent of children in South Los Angeles have never been to a dentist, leading to a slew of health issues that manifest as they grow into adults. The impact of Obamacare on this population will be profound: so far, 5.3 million people have enrolled in the Affordable Care Act and with a March 31 deadline looming, it is hoped that more take advantage of it.
“Thousands of newly-insured patients will need healthcare, and thanks to Obamacare we have two beautiful, newly-constructed health centers in the heart of South Los Angeles to provide quality care,” said St. John’s President and CEO Jim Mangia. “This is a promise fulfilled by President Obama.”
President Obama’s senior advisor, Valerie Jarrett, attended Monday’s opening and declared it a great example of federal, local elected officials, residents, business leaders and foundations collaborating to accomplish something great.
“This day shows what we can accomplish when we work together,” she said.
With $9.4 million allotted, St. John’s is the largest recipient of capital funding from the Affordable Care Act in Los Angeles County. The funding, supplemented by major contributors including First 5 and the Ahmanson Foundation, helped fund the construction of 26 new exam rooms, medical and dental services for pediatric patients as well as pre-natal care, expanded services for adults, chronic disease care, a full-scope pharmacy and behavioral health services. The wellness campus houses full-scope diagnostic services including x-ray, mammography and ultra-sound services.
For Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, a longtime supporter of St. John’s, the center brings a high level of service to a community in need.
“St. John’s just keeps moving forward to give people in this community a better quality of life,” he said. “This is a matter of justice. Healthcare is a right, not a privilege.”