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Health Technology Revolutionizes Patient Care

Los Angeles County’s Department of Health Services is installing a new countywide electronic health record system that could be a model for health care organizations across the country.

“Our patients simply need and deserve world class technology to protect their health,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

The system, called the Online Real-time Centralized Health Information Database, or ORCHID, is the first uniform, standardized, and fully integrated electronic health record technology to be released countywide.

“Having one system will bring us together as a single integrated system,” DHS Director Mitchell Katz said.

With ORCHID, nurses will be able to use bar code technology when administering medications to patients. Bar code scanners will be available in patient rooms, allowing bedside bar code scanning. The nurse scans the bar code on the patient’s wrist and the bar coded medication label, then administers the medication. Among other benefits, the ORCHID system will help verify that the right medication was given to the right patient in the right dose at the right time.

Each patient will have a unique bar code that exists only on his or her wristband. The system alerts the nurse if the medication order is expired, discontinued or if the wrong medication is given to a patient. The bar code technology will reduce the possibility of patient care errors with every pill.

“The new system will result in improved quality of care, improved efficiency of care, and an innovative system that can serve as a model across the country,” the Supervisor said.

Recently, the pharmacy team in Los Angeles County completed the task of scanning every unique medication for the Department of Health Services pharmacies to capture the bar codes into the ORCHID database. The process, completed by hand, included 50,000 scans.

The new system will launch on November 1 at Harbor UCLA Medical Center and at the Martin Luther King Jr. Outpatient Center on February 1, 2015. The initial launch will be followed by the LAC+USC Medical Center on May 1 2015, the High Desert Regional Health Center Cluster on August 1, 2015, the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center on November 1, 2015, and the Olive View-UCLA Medical Center Cluster on February 1, 2016.

“We are dismantling the digital divide of health care that exists in our communities,” the Supervisor said.

Mental Health Urgent Care Center Opens

Jo Helen Graham’s son Mark was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia when he was 15 years old. Despite his parents’ efforts to find him ongoing treatment, little has been available to address his mental illness and he has suffered. A barroom brawl years ago landed him in prison when he was 19 – a tragic turn for a young man who desperately needed mental health intervention.

MLK Mental Health Urgent Care Center

“Mark was never able to receive the proper mental health treatment that would have helped him,” Graham said speaking at the ribbon-cutting celebration for the new Mental Health Urgent Care Center on the Martin Luther King Jr. Medical Campus in Willowbrook.

She noted that her son is now out of prison but still suffers from mental health issues. “Jailing and warehousing our mentally ill is a human tragedy. But I am optimistic about the road ahead because of centers like this one.”

The newly refurbished two-story, 8,000-square-foot facility, which opened September 4,  is the latest milestone towards the completion of a wellness community on the MLK Medical Campus that brings preventive and emergency care services to the region.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas celebrates the new center.

“The opening of this center is part of a broader countywide drive to expand access to mental health services and substance abuse treatment for all those in need, particularly those at risk of incarceration,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who spearheaded the effort to bring the urgent care center to the MLK campus. “Facilities like this will be most effective in promoting rehabilitation and reducing recidivism.”

The center is a one-stop shop for families, individuals and law enforcement to bring a person suffering acute distress or an episode related to mental illness. Patients will receive a variety of services including psychiatric evaluation and assessment, crisis intervention, substance abuse counseling and medication support from an on-site team of experts from the county’s departments of mental health, social services, health services and public health. Adults will have a separate wing, divided by gender. Twelve to 17-year-olds will be admitted into a separate wing of the center. While there is an emphasis on serving the indigent and Medi-Cal patients, no one will be turned away.

Data has shown that nearly 50 percent of the patients in the former King/Drew Emergency Room had primary or secondary mental health issues. The Urgent Care Center provides a more cost effective and humane way to treat people with mental illness.

Although there are 15 medical professionals on staff 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it is not a sterile, cold and clinical setting. In fact, with its wood laminate floors, soothing yellow walls, cozy sleeping chairs and clean bathrooms, in the recovery area,it is more like a nice family living room where patients can stay for up to 24 hours.

Community leaders and elected officials celebrate.

“Twenty-four hours a day, you can bring in your loved one in,” said Luana Murphy, President/CEO of Exodus Recovery and Exodus Foundation for Recovery, which will operate the center. “Services here will be integrated. After they are discharged, no one will be sent to the street. We will have a plan.”

The Urgent Care Center will play an important role in the county’s efforts to redirect mentally ill offenders away from jails, where people with untreated illnesses currently constitute a substantial portion of the population.

Terri McDonald, Assistant Sheriff, Los Angeles County Sheriff Department

Terri McDonald, Assistant Sheriff, Los Angeles County Sheriff Department

“It takes a village and mentally ill citizens are some of our most vulnerable,” said Terri McDonald, assistant sheriff of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. “We can be proud of this step forward in reducing our reliance on jails to deal with our mentally ill.”

The center will be run by Exodus Foundation for Recovery, which has been providing psychiatric services in Southern California since 1989. The urgent care center brings additional medical services to the Martin Luther King Jr. Medical Center Campus, which already include the MLK Outpatient Center and Center for Public Health. The hospital is scheduled to open next year.

“Today, we move one step closer to the MLK Medical Campus we’ve been waiting for,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, Director of Community and Integrated Programs for the Department of Health Services, noting that the center is a model of recovery and urgent care for mental health centers throughout the region.“It is this image that makes me excited to be here today as we look forward to the services Exodus will provide with its many campus partners for years to come.”

 

 

Hundreds Attend Metro Symposium & Job Fair

 

HS5_0101Hundreds of potential construction workers from economically disadvantaged communities attended Metro’s job fair and symposium on construction careers recently, hoping for a shot at a construction career during Los Angeles County’s biggest public transportation expansion.

Among the attendees was Kori Ward, 42 of Los Angeles who says she has been looking for employment in the construction industry since 2011.

“I’m looking for a career in the trades, working for Metro,” said Ward. “I like being outside and I like the demanding work.”

At the job fair, Ward got the opportunity to speak with construction companies, organizations and unions such as Skanska, Walsh Shea, PV Jobs, United Auto Workers, LA Trade Tech, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and the Black Worker Center.

The job fair was held in conjunction with a discussion by industry leaders and government officials on the benefits of a Metro project labor agreement, a hiring policy that targets workers from economically disadvantaged communities. The policy, championed by Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and enacted by the Metro Board in 2012, was the first in the nation and placed Los Angeles County as a national leader on hiring agreements.

The targeted hiring provision of the agreement and the Construction Careers Policy initiatives require that at least 40 percent of total construction hours are from residents who live in zip codes where unemployment is high. Also, 10 percent of Metro jobs are set aside for disadvantaged workers, such as those who are homeless, are high school drop-outs or who have criminal records and 20 percent of jobs are set aside for apprenticeship.

To date, of the 1,419 workers who have worked on Metro project labor agreement contracts, more than 1,000 workers have met the hiring provision criteria.

“Together, these policies provide concrete opportunities for local residents to benefit from Metro’s investments in our public transit system,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, who co-authored the 2012 motion. “To put it simply: More public transportation means more jobs. And we have taken great care to ensure that those jobs are offered to those who need them the most.”

Improving Community Wellness: To Help Everyone

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On a busy stretch off of La Brea Boulevard, Los Angeles residents can walk into a nicely decorated, serene environment that could be mistaken for a spa.

But To Help Everyone (T.H.E.) Health and Wellness medical and dental facility is really a haven for the sick. At the entrance, painted a soft blue, patients are welcomed by the motto decorating a wall: healing the body and raising the spirit.

“People come in here not feeling very well,” Kimmella Collins, an administrator of the facility said at a recent ribbon cutting ceremony. “So we like to make our center inviting and comfortable so at least they can feel a little better.”

Founded in 1974, T.H.E. celebrated their 40th anniversary last year and has seen exponential growth, opening 10 new buildings in the last five years. They have two school-based health centers: Crenshaw High School and Lennox School District. They operate a mobile van at Dorsey High School.

photo“Expansion of new health centers provides a critical opportunity to focus on prevention and community wellness,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who has long been a supporter of T.H.E.’s health mode. “This approach to healthcare has a very meaningful impact on the future of this community.”

In May, T.H.E. will be opening another new clinic in the Lennox/Hawthorne area. The La Brea Wellness Center is 5,500 sq. ft. with 8 exam rooms and 2 dental chairs.

“I believe that healthcare is a fundamental right not a privilege,” said Senator Holly Mitchell, who also attended the recent ceremony. “We must expand and grow access to services throughout Los Angeles County.”

Added Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, who is now a member of the California State Assembly Committee on Health: “This facility is the citadel of health. We are raising the health IQ of the community.”

Home for Good

DJA_0089 By the end of 2015, Los Angeles County will eradicate veteran homelessness—that was the pledge made recently by national and local government officials, non-profit and philanthropic organizations and the local business community.

Home For Good, an initiative by United Way of Greater Los Angeles and The Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce to end veteran homelessness in 2015, unveiled a detailed Action Plan to meet that goal. The initiative prides itself on an individually based approach to end homelessness. By understanding homeless people’s needs, quickly linking them to permanent housing, job training and mental health help, many veterans have found a new way of life.

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“I am so grateful,” said Felicia Blankenship, a veteran who was homeless for many years before finding permanent housing at the Rosslyn Hotel Apartments in downtown Los Angeles, where the initiative was announced. “I am alive and I am sober and I am so happy to be here.”

Since its launch in 2010, Home For Good partners throughout the region have housed over 12,000 veterans, with a current rate of 438 veterans housed each month. To achieve the goal of eradicating veteran homelessness by the end of the calendar year, the community must house 538 veterans per month.

photo“I welcome my new and fellow Supervisors, Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis, in joining me to help solve homelessness in our County,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, who in 2010 co-sponsored the motion for Home for Good in Los Angeles County. “This is an esteemed and productive public/private partnership that has made major gains toward ending chronic and veteran homelessness in our County.”

Secretary of U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, Robert McDonald, was the keynote speaker at the event, which also included Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles County Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis.

“If we end veteran homelessness in L.A. County and across the country, imagine what else we can do,” said Robert McDonald, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs. “There is no reason why any veteran should be homeless.”

There are 39,500 homeless men and women in Los Angeles County, of which 4,618 are homeless veterans. Los Angeles has seen a 40 percent reduction in veteran homelessness but clearly more work needs to be done.

“Having thousands of people on the street is morally wrong,” said Gary Toebben, president of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. “Frankly, it is also bad for business.”

With the current partnerships, Home for Good leaders are confident the goal to end veteran homelessness will be met.

“Every region in Los Angeles County is impacted by veteran homelessness, and it will require a strong and collective effort to eradicate the issue and house our homeless veterans still living on the streets,” said Elise Buik, President and CEO, United Way of Greater Los Angeles. “I’m confident that with this group effort, renewed focus and expansion of the proven Coordinated Entry System, we will eradicate veteran homelessness in Los Angeles County in 2015.”

For more information, visit Home For Good.