Streamlining County Health Records


In an effort to give Los Angeles County residents the best health care services possible, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas would like to see a single unified county electronic health record system that will reduce duplication of records and increase communication between county health departments. Currently, the departments of Mental Health, Public Health and Health Services are using separate electronic health record systems.

The motion was unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors and calls for a report expected by July that will examine the cost and timeline for how to bring all departments under one system called Online Real-time Centralized Health Information Database (ORCHID). Among the three county health departments, only the Department of Health Services uses ORCHID, a system that provides unified patient records and supports various health care provider needs. An electronic health records system replaces paper charts, allows physicians and clinical to access patient information, such as a patient’s medical history and laboratory results, without scrambling to find paper records.

“Consolidating electronic health record systems can transform the way that health care is delivered by making information unified and available whenever and wherever it is needed,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “We must make sure that patients’ records are safe and secure and we must also bring Los Angeles County residents the most reliable and accessible health care services possible.”

Healthcare Reform: An Anniversary and A Call for Vigilance

Health Access’ Affordable Care Act 5th Anniversary CelebrationSupervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas joined healthcare advocates Tuesday in marking the fifth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act with celebration and a call for vigilance.

He warned opponents remain determined to undo President Barack Obama’s signature piece of legislation, which has given more Americans access to affordable and high-quality health insurance than ever before.

“This should be a time when we are celebrating but, in reality, the Affordable Care Act is under attack,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said in a news conference at Planned Parenthood.

Signed into law on March 23, 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, expands the affordability, quality, and availability of private and public health insurance through consumer protections, regulations, subsidies, taxes, insurance exchanges and other reforms.

The Supreme Court upheld the ACA on June 28, 2012. However, a new legal challenge – “King V Burwell” – could block certain states from receiving the ACA subsidies that make healthcare affordable, resulting in millions of Americans becoming uninsured.

Meanwhile, congressional Republicans who have already failed more than 50 times to repeal the ACA are now proposing a federal budget for 2016 that would not only repeal the law but also partly privatize Medicare and slash Medicaid funding.

Health Access’ Affordable Care Act 5th Anniversary Celebration

“If these cuts take place, they would have huge potential impacts to the county,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “We have to work hard to make sure this doesn’t become a reality because the people I represent and those in the rest of LA County need health care coverage.”

Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles vice president of public affairs Celinda Vazquez hailed the ACA as “one of the greatest health care advancements in our era – and the single biggest advancement for women’s health in generations.”

She noted, however, that California’s reimbursement rates for providers who treat MediCal patients ranks 49th in the nation. “Unless we have enough providers willing and able to care for these newly-insured people, we will not be able to realize the full potential of the ACA,” Ms. Vasquez said.

Thanks to the ACA, more than 60 percent of previously uninsured adults in California have healthcare coverage as of July 2014.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said the county is working to have the remainder obtain coverage under the program My Health LA, in collaboration with the Community Clinic Association and a network of advocacy and consumer groups. He also wants to expand school-based health clinics.

Health Access’ Affordable Care Act 5th Anniversary Celebration

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.

Looking Beyond Disabilities


A working mom, Maisha Hughes worried about sending her 9-year-old daughter Asantewa to an after school program. Asantewa has autism and finding the right program was always a challenge—until she connected with AbilityFirst, a non-profit organization that provides programs for adults and children with disabilities.

Not only is the AbilityFirst center on Crenshaw Boulevard brand new, it is literally around the corner from Hughes’ home in Inglewood.

“It has been very helpful and convenient,” said Hughes. “If it wasn’t for AbilityFirst, I wouldn’t have another option. I am extremely blessed to have this.”

6,500 square foot Joan and Harry A. Mier Center

During the week, a school bus drops off children at the brand new 6,500 square foot Joan and Harry A. Mier Center after school where they can socialize, play outdoors, cook in a chef’s kitchen, draw, paint and even swim at the new indoor pool.

The center and its swimming pool is the only one of its kind serving children who live in South Los Angeles, Inglewood, Hawthorne and Gardena. During the summer, the center offers full day activities such as swimming lessons and even going to the movies.

“For more than 88 years, we have been looking beyond disabilities, focusing on capabilities, and expanding possibilities,” said Lori Gangemi, President and CEO of AbilityFirst. “We offer a broad range of programs and services to help children and adults with physical and developmental disabilities realize their full potential throughout their lives.”

AbilityFirst has 25 locations, including 10 group homes, three work centers, one camp for adults and children with disabilities, eight community centers and an Ability First Employment Services office.

“Simply put, AbilityFirst’s enrichment programs are first rate,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose office contributed $50,000 to complete the building and has a courtyard named in his honor. “They focus on what is possible and that philosophy has changed the lives of countless people with disabilities and their families. It has been a pleasure supporting them.”

Board Unanimously Approves Consolidating Health Departments



The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved looking into consolidating the Department of Health Services, Department of Public Health and Department of Mental Health into a single integrated department. In addition, the board is considering whether to transfer medical services for inmates currently overseen by the Sheriff’s Department to the Department of Health Services.

The board has asked for a report back in early spring on how this consolidation would occur and how services would be provided without compromising quality.

“I do see it as three independent departments working together, each learning the best from one another,” said Mitch Katz, director of the Department of Health Services. “This is just about providing better services where we can.”

After more than two hours of public testimony from individuals concerned about any changes, the Supervisors clarified that the consolidation would not diminish much needed mental health services.

“We will find the best way to find our clients and families the services they need,” said Marvin Southard, director of the Department of Mental Health. “LA County will continue to be a national leader in wellness and recovery.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas stressed that any changes would be done with public input and through a transparent public process.

“This is not about cutting dollars or services,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “This is about maximizing the quality of care for the people of L.A. County who depend on these critical services. It is important we consider consolidation of all health services that the County provides, including the health care provided to our inmates.”

He noted that Los Angeles is the only county in the state in which the Sheriff’s Department provides health services to inmates. The goal of this motion, which is supported by the Department of Health Services and the Sheriff’s Department, is to improve integration, coordination of care, collaboration and quality of care for inmates.

Betsy Pfromm, president of the Los Angeles Child Guidance Clinic, a mental health provider near USC, urged the board to hold forums with constituents who want to be heard on the issue.

“As a former public mental health director, I was able to meet directly with the elected officials and keep them informed as to ensure accountability,” she said.

My Health LA to Enroll More Residents

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With an estimated 400,000 people in Los Angeles County unable to qualify for health coverage under the federal; Affordable Care Act, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and St. John’s Well Child and Family Center have moved to provide free health care for those still in need.

The My Health LA program, which launches October 1, is a no-cost health care program through 164 community partner clinics for low-income residents of Los Angeles County who do not have health insurance. The program, which received $61,000 in funding from Los Angeles County, has evolved from a two decade-long partnership between LA County and local community clinics and health centers. Patients will receive primary care services at clinics, such as health screenings, physicals, chronic disease management, and prescription medications. Specialty care and more acute services will be provided by LA County’s Department of Health Services.

“My Health LA demonstrates the commitment of Los Angeles County to expand health coverage to the uninsured and to ensure access to care for the most vulnerable among us,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “Every person living in Los Angeles deserves access to health care and we will not stop until this is achieved. We need health care for all.”

By giving access to medical care for all residents, patients can treat their symptoms early on in their illness and avoid much more expensive emergency care later on. In addition, diagnosing certain contagious illnesses at their onset is increasingly important to contain them quickly.

Since January, hundreds of thousands of people in California have enrolled in the Affordable Care Act. In addition, free medical, dental and vision services recently were made available to thousands through the fifth annual Care Harbor Free Clinic.

St. John’s Chief Executive Jim Mangia noted that the center, which offers primary care services and supportive services to address families’ educational, socio-economic, and mental health needs, will not turn anyone away.

Sister Dolores Riojas of St. Thomas Church in Los Angeles said many of her parishioners were lacking in healthcare.

“We thank Supervisor Ridley-Thomas for the leadership he has provided in helping working families,” she said. “Now they will be getting treated early on.”

Click here to find a clinic near you. Participants should call the clinic to make an appointment to enroll and to make sure the clinic is taking new patients.

Care Harbor LA Offers Free Healthcare to Thousands

It’s been three years since Kameron Lyons, 21 of Long Beach has seen a dentist.  The Cal State University Long Beach senior says that she has suffered through extreme pain in her mouth for the last three months that prevents her from eating anything cold including her favorite- ice cream.

But on Thursday, thanks to the Care Harbor LA free healthcare clinic, Lyons received two fillings and a teeth cleaning from a dentist free of charge.

“My mouth feels better now,” Lyons said. “I’m grateful and really happy to be here.”

The mounting cost of tuition and books has forced Lyons to spend her limited income on school rather than healthcare.

“It’s nice to know that people care about those of us that don’t have the luxury of going to a dentist,” Lyons continued. “The aura here is positive, the people volunteering are happy to be here and it is all good vibes.”

For four days, hundreds of doctors, dentists, nurses and other volunteers provide free screenings, treatment, prevention resources and follow-up care to thousands of uninsured, underinsured and at-risk individuals and families inside the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena.  At the clinic, patients also will be able to receive HIV tests, specialty medical care and primary care.

Like Lyons, James Scott, 75 of Los Angeles is thankful for the opportunity to receive free healthcare at the clinic. Scott says that he has stopped driving altogether because of his poor eyesight and that he is looking forward to seeing an optometrist.

“I’m reliant on my right eye and have become a one-eye reader,” Scott said.  “I have Medicare but it doesn’t fully cover what I need and I can’t afford to see an optometrist.  My license is expired and I need a prescription and glasses so that I can see better and pass the vision exam at the DMV.”

One of the primary goals for the event is not only to provide people with quality, holistic medical care, but to sign up eligible residents for insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

“We want to create an event so that the people going through the line this year are not going to have to have to be in line next year,” Don Manelli, president and founder of Care Harbor said. “We are working hard to become obsolete.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose office is one of the sponsors of Care Harbor LA, said that the need for the event is clear, referring to the line of individuals waiting to enter the sports arena to receive medical attention.

“We are proud to provide compassionate and efficient healthcare to thousands of individuals in need of care,” he said.  “Care Harbor represents the best of our communities and humanity at its best to help those who are less fortunate.”


Thousands Received Wristband for Free Healthcare


Danielle Kahl, 25, of Los Angeles, says it’s been years since she saw an optometrist. The left arm on her three-year-old prescription eyeglasses is missing, and making do has been difficult. Kahl, who is unemployed, arrived at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena at 5:30 a.m. Sunday with her 23-month-old son, James, to reserve her place at the 6th annual Care Harbor LA free clinic. Kahl, like thousands of other people from throughout Southern California, had lined up to obtain the wristbands that would guarantee them treatment Thursday at one of the nation’s largest events promising free health care to all comers.

From Thursday through Sunday, hundreds of doctors, dentists, nurses and other volunteers provide screenings, treatment, prevention resources and follow-up care to thousands of uninsured, underinsured and at-risk individuals and families. At the clinic, patients also will be able to receive HIV tests, specialty medical care and primary care.
“I’ve never been to an event like this,” Kahl said. “This is so cool.”

Don Manelli, president and founder of Care Harbor, notes that one goal for the event is not only to provide people with quality, holistic medical care, but to help eligible residents sign up for insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

“We want to create an event so that the people going through the line this year are not going to have to have to be in line next year,” Manelli said. “We are working hard to become obsolete.”
Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose office is one of the sponsors of Care Harbor LA, said that the event is a testament to the profound work of volunteers to help those in need.

“Care Harbor is an example of compassion, ingenuity, skills, expertise, time and money, rolled into an annual event to help those who are less fortunate,” he said. “It represents the very best of our communities.”

For Antonio Relnado-Sergio, 52 of Van Nuys, who is homeless, looking down at the green wristband that will admit him into the clinic on Thursday gave him a sense of relief. After losing both of his front teeth, he will finally have to opportunity to see a dentist. Relnado-Sergio says he has been actively seeking work but has been told an unattractive smile is to blame for the lack of follow-up interviews.
“I got it,” said Relnado-Sergio, referring to his wristband. “God bless the organizers of this event. This is amazing.”


Wristband Distribution for the County’s Largest Free Health Clinic

County residents in need of free vision, dental or medical care should clear their calendars: at 8 a.m. Wednesday, September 10, Care Harbor LA an annual free clinic for families and individuals in need, will distribute 1,000 wristbands on a first come basis at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena’s VIP Parking Lot.

Although the upcoming four-day clinic will take place from September 11-14 from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., only those who obtained wristbands ahead of time will be seen. Each wristband will have a specific day printed on it designating the day on which patients should return for treatment.

During Care Harbor LA the Sports Arena will be transformed into a medical clinic where hundreds of doctors, dentists, optometrists, nurses and general volunteers will be onsite to serve those who are uninsured, underinsured and in need of medical, dental and vision care.

This will be the sixth massive free clinic produced by Care Harbor, in an effort to bring desperately needed care to the most vulnerable populations in Los Angeles County. The organizers and healthcare professionals who formed Care Harbor, a nonprofit organization, are dedicated to providing free care to thousands of uninsured and underserved people in Southern California. Last year more than 3,000 patients were served at the Care Harbor LA clinic. Just as the previous years, this year’s free health care clinic is forecasted to serve thousands of people.

  • One wristband per person.
  • Patients will not be admitted into the free clinic without a wristband.

The Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena is located at 3939 South Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, CA 90037.

New MLK Mental Health Center Now Open


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.”