Community Celebrates New MLK Outpatient Center

Several hundred people turned out for the celebratory ribbon cutting at the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Outpatient Center, ushering in a new era of healthcare for residents in the Watts/Willowbrook area.

The festivities included tours of the $172 million-county center, live salsa music and health resource booths to show off another jewel on the MLK Campus. The Outpatient Center is an important part of the county’s plan to deliver quality primary care and preventive services to keep people healthy. It is adjacent to the new MLK Community Hospital, which is set to open next year.

The center and hospital are part of a wellness village that also includes the Center for Public Health, which opened in October 2011, and provides immunizations as well as testing for sexually transmitted diseases and tuberculosis. A psychiatric urgent care facility that will offer mental health services to residents is scheduled to open in the fall.

“Community transformation and healing is not for the faint of heart,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who pledged in 2008 when he was elected to the Board of Supervisors to bring a new, state-of-the-art hospital to the community. “New buildings alone are not enough…Today we stand at the center of a circle of community wellness. It starts with each one of us, one heartbeat at a time.”

At the ribbon cutting, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas was joined on stage by philanthropist/doctor Patrick Soon-Shiong, ABC-7 television anchor and emcee Marc Brown, Chief Executive of the Outpatient Center Cynthia Oliver, Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services Mitch Katz as well as community activist and icon, Sweet Alice Harris. Harris noted that good medical care was desperately needed in the area.

“I’ve lived here 60 years. I’ve seen people die in their homes for not having anywhere to go,” she said, telling the audience a story of a little girl with asthma who died on her way to a faraway hospital when there was no medical care nearby. “We have needed this medical center. We needed it badly. It looks like Beverly Hills. We got the best.”

With its bright terrazzo floors and gleaming steel and glass picture windows, the Outpatient Center will open to the public June 17. Constructed by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, it boasts 70 specialty clinics, a range of services from pediatric and obstetric care to orthopedics and neurology, as well as a blood infusion bay for chemotherapy patients, a stroke rehabilitation suite and an oral surgery center.

There are five operating rooms for outpatient surgical procedures, in addition to rehabilitation services and a wide array of diagnostic services. The urgent care center will operate seven days a week, 16 hours-a-day for urgent needs.

The ribbon cutting was also noteworthy for the students at King/Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science across the street. Since he was a freshman, Isai Rea, has been eagerly watching the construction of the Outpatient Center. Now a 17-year-old junior, he hopes to have a shot an interning with the nurses and doctors on site so he can gain experience in internal or sports medicine.

“This new site is modern and state of the art,” he said as he waited for a tour. “It is so beautiful and it’s great that I get to see it up and running before I graduate from high school.”

For Hilda Alvarez, having a state of the art Outpatient Center has meant the difference between life and death. Suffering from cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis, Alvarez said she hoped that all residents will benefit from the new facility.

“I hope that with this testimony, people will come to this new center,” she said. “I was not from this community. But I am now.”

Continuing Life-Saving Services at St. Francis Medical Center

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas applauded Attorney General Kamala Harris’ decision ensuring that life-saving and emergency medical services continue in the Southeast Los Angeles area for at least a decade after the sale of St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood to Prime Healthcare Services, Inc.

The Attorney General announced Friday that Prime, the intended buyer of six Daughters of Charity Health System hospitals including St. Francis, must agree to a 10-year condition to operate a Level II Trauma Center, retain emergency rooms, psychiatric services and other medical services related to Level II Trauma. The hospital must also give a one-year mandatory written legal notice of any changes in services after 10 years.

In addition, the local governing board for Saint Francis must include one member designated by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors; provide a total of $10 million in community benefit programs for 11 years vetted by the governing board and participate in Medi-Cal and Medicare programs.

“While we are still learning the full details of the Attorney General’s action, I am pleased to hear that there will not be a disruption in life-saving services,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who sent a letter to the Attorney General in January expressing concern about maintaining critical services. “We must ensure that the community is protected.”

Both the Attorney General and the Los Angeles County’s Department of Health Services have released reports confirming the crucial role St. Francis Medical Center plays as one of the busiest trauma centers in the county. In addition, a related January report by the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services found that the new private non-profit MLK Community Hospital — set to open later this year – could not fill any trauma care service delivery gap without a significant service expansion and financial investment for additional hospital staff and infrastructure, including the construction of new inpatient beds and operating rooms.

Creating a New Hub for Child Safety

mlk hub1

Continuing the push to protect children in the child welfare system, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has approved the development of a comprehensive plan to build a new Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Hub in Willowbrook.

The new MLK Medical Hub’s mission will be to have medical and child welfare professionals provide medical and mental health services for children at risk of abuse and neglect. The MLK Hub will be the first of the county’s six hubs to receive an expansion so they can provide more intensive services to at risk children, especially those under two years of age.

The plan for the new MLK Hub, which will be located on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus, is expected to include funding options, a timeline for relocation and space where behavioral mental health services can be provided on site. The current, 41-year-old location for the MLK Medical Hub is in terrible condition, with warped floorboards, a leaking roof and dysfunctional heating and air cooling systems.

The improvement of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Hub was initiated as part of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection’s recommendations.

“We are determined to make child safety a top priority,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who authored the motion. “We must support and protect the most vulnerable in our society. This hub will create a safety net for these children so they will be kept out of harm’s way.”

Established in June 2013, the Blue Ribbon Commission was chaired by David Sanders, of the Casey Family Programs foundation, and was made up of 10 child welfare experts appointed by each member of the Board of Supervisors. In June 2014, the commission presented a list of 40 recommendations that would improve child welfare services, including giving more money to relatives who care for children in foster care, providing better medical care for children removed from their homes and improving medical screening of infants who may be at risk.

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.

MLK Mental Health Urgent Care Center Celebration

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.”



Mental Health Center Coming to MLK Campus

Click to download the event flyer

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Join Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, health leaders and the community August 27 for a ribbon cutting celebration for the new Mental Health Urgent Care Center (UCC) at the Martin Luther King Jr. Medical Campus. The Mental Health Center is near the recently opened MLK Outpatient Center and the new hospital, which is scheduled to open next summer.

The new mental health urgent care center, which will open its doors September 4, will operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and will offer a variety of services including psychiatric evaluation and assessment, crisis intervention, medication support and medication management. In addition, individuals and families can receive treatment, alcohol and drug counseling and prevention, domestic violence screening and referrals to other community resources where people can seek help.

Too many people in Los Angeles County are in desperate need of psychiatric services and yet too few places are available to help. Hospital emergency rooms have become ground zero for psychiatric patients in need of help—making it a very expensive way to treat people with psychiatric problems.

The center will be run by Exodus Foundation for Recovery, which has been providing quality behavioral health services to disadvantaged and vulnerable individuals with mental illness, substance use disorders and chronic physical health issues. The organization has developed and established several hospital based inpatient and outpatient programs, a psychiatric and internal medicine provider group and a behavioral health managed care company.

While there is an emphasis on serving the indigent and Medi-Cal patients, no one will be turned away. Anyone over the age of 13 will be accepted but adolescents will be served in a separate space from the adults.

“These are the kinds of services people need to get back on their feet,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “I am looking forward to opening this center as well as watching Exodus continue to build strong ties to community centers, faith-based organizations and housing resources to help those in need and at risk.”

Recovery Center Coming to MLK Medical Campus

MLK HospitalHoping to reduce emergency room overcrowding and decrease the costs of keeping stabilized homeless patients in expensive hospital beds, the Board of Supervisors approved $3.7-million in funding for a new recovery center on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus in Willowbrook.

The MLK Recovery Center, which is expected to open by early next year, will accept patients who are clinically stable and ready for discharge, but who remain hospitalized because they are homeless. The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services loses millions of dollars each year because Medicaid (and other insurers) do not cover the cost of lengthy hospital bed stays for indigent patients. In addition, there is a shortage of places in Los Angeles County where these patients can stay while they recuperate.

The MLK Recovery Center will be housed in the former dormitory for Charles Drew University medical students on the MLK Campus. It will serve as an immediate discharge option for the County’s entire hospital network, which includes four County-run hospitals and the privately-run MLK Community hospital.

The recovery center will be open 24-hours, 7-days per week, with staff providing meals, security, transportation, health services and other social services, such as housing support. It will serve approximately 900 to 1,400 patients per year countywide.

“I applaud the Department of Health Services for its innovation and leadership,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who authored the motion to fund the recovery center. “This project will save lives, heal bodies and save dollars. I want to be certain that every patient sent to recovery is connected to the services she or he needs to be stabilized so they can hopefully find a home.”

Free Martin Luther King Medical Campus Shuttle

Visitors and patients of the Martin Luther King Medical Campus in Willlowbrook can now ride a free shuttle to get around, courtesy of the County of Los Angeles.

The wheelchair accessible campus shuttle runs from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday thru Friday with nine stops throughout the campus including the new outpatient center, every 15 minutes.

“We want visitors get to, from and around the medical campus with ease,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who has helped fund the services.   “The shuttle service is intended to do just that at no cost.”

It is the latest of three shuttle services now available in Willowbrook, with one ferrying passengers to and from the Rosa Parks Transit Station to the campus.  The other shuttle runs east/west from the Hahn Plaza Shopping Center to 135th Street and San Pedro Street.  The route includes many stops including Athens Park, Magic Jonson Park and Carver Park.

“This shuttle service allows patients and staff to move freely around the campus, from the parking lot to all the campus buildings,” said John Huang, transit manager for Public Works, who will be responsible for making sure the shuttles run smoothly.

For more information about shuttle services in Willowbrook please visit:




MLK Hospital Signs 40-Year-Lease with County

MLK Hospital

In yet another milestone, the nonprofit Martin Luther King – Los Angeles Healthcare Corporation (MLK-LA) has signed a 40-year lease with Los Angeles County to run and operate the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital.

With the lease signed and a more than $170 million-commitment from the County, the hospital, which will be privately run by the non-profit MLK LA Board, will accelerate the pace of acquiring new equipment and hiring doctors, nurses, technicians and other staff.

A few months ago, construction of the new $285 million-hospital was completed by the County, and next month the adjacent $175 million-Outpatient Center will open its doors to the public.  In addition, a new Psychiatric Urgent Care Center for those seeking mental health services is expected open on the MLK campus in the fall.

The hospital, outpatient center, and Psychiatric Urgent Care Center are part of a revitalized wellness network intended to provide residents of the surrounding communities with preventive care services to improve their overall health and avoid hospital visits.

“The County is fulfilling its promise,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who spearheaded the effort to build a new hospital and wellness facilities. “We will be good and vigilant partners. Together we will work to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars while ensuring that visitors to the new hospital and neighboring clinics will receive the highest quality of care.”

Construction Completed on Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital

Construction of the new Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital has been completed, bringing the community of Willowbrook and surrounding areas closer to seeing their new health care facility become reality.

The hospital is expected to serve 1.2 million residents from all over South Los Angeles including Compton, Inglewood, Watts-Willowbrook and Lynwood. It will also create more than 5,000 jobs in the area with approximately 700 directly at the hospital. The hospital, which will be privately run, is scheduled to open to the public in early 2015 after the new staff is in place and it passes through rigorous state licensing requirements.

The hospital, which houses four operating rooms, 21 treatment bays and will include 131 patient beds, cost $285 million to build.  It will be governed by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Los Angeles Healthcare Corporation (MLK-LA), an independent, nonprofit organization that is committed to establishing and maintaining high quality medical services in the community.

Both the Hospital and Outpatient Center were constructed with more than 50 percent local worker participation.

The adjacent Outpatient Center is also near completion and is scheduled to open in late spring of 2014. The Outpatient Center, meanwhile, will have 104 exam rooms, radiology and mammogram equipment and five operating rooms and cost $175 million to build.

The Hospital and Outpatient Center are part of a medical complex that will focus on preventive care in addition to inpatient services.

The closure of the former Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center in 2007 left the area without a hospital or true healthcare.  When he was elected to office in 2008, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas made opening a new state of the art hospital and outpatient center a priority.

“This medical campus is coming together as promised, with state of the art facilities, technology and highly experienced professionals,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “This community deserves top notch health care facilities that will be looked upon as a first-rate, 21st century medical village.”