The Woman Building the New MLK Multi-Service Outpatient Center

All right, Esther Diaz, the senior project manager overseeing construction of the new Martin Luther King Multi-Service Outpatient Center in Willowbrook isn’t building the project all by herself. A crew of workers including, electricians, mechanics and plumbers have been working on the beautiful new facility since it broke ground last January.

Still, as the project manager on one of the most exciting health care construction projects in the county, she manages the $167-million project and is responsible for seeing that the center is delivered by the fall of this year. When completed, the 135,550-square-foot multi-service center will be one of three jewels on the MLK Medical Center Campus, joining the new hospital and new Center for Public Health. Together, these facilities will deliver preventive, emergency, diagnostic and wellness healthcare services to the residents of South Los Angeles in an unprecedented way. In the coming years, the campus will include a new mental health urgent care center, medical office space, residential facilities for seniors and medical interns.

Since the project broke ground last year, construction workers have been hard at work installing the multi- service outpatient center ’s structural steel frame, exterior walls, and enclosing the building. To date, mechanical, electrical and plumbing are estimated to be about 70 percent complete and interior finishes are now underway, according to Diaz.

When completed, the facility will undergo a rigorous inspection process by state and county officials before opening. The center will offer specialty treatments such as dialysis, physical therapy, urgent care and outpatient surgery. Until that time, the 41-year-old East Los Angeles native is a familiar sight overseeing the construction, amid the exposed wiring and dry wall, clad in a hard hat and steel-toed boots.

Diaz also oversees 130 construction workers, many of whom are part of the local worker hiring program, a policy championed by Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas to ensure that local workers who live near the project perform at least 30 percent of the total construction labor hours.

As a 15-year veteran of the Department of Public Works, Diaz sees to it that construction projects throughout the county transition smoothly from conceptual design to actual construction. Along the way, she too has undergone a transition — from proving herself the equal of her peers in a male-dominated field to now leading the way.

“Over the last years, I’ve gained confidence and I’m more relaxed,” Diaz said. “Now I can joke a little more when I’m facilitating a meeting. In the beginning, I was serious because I had to earn the respect from the people in the room with more experience.”

Diaz visits the construction site at least twice a week, and the rest of the time she is troubleshooting issues as they come up — she’s part engineer, part architect, part construction manager.

“I go through some challenges, although they don’t happen on a daily basis, they do happen,” said Diaz. “This job requires you to be a problem solver, listener, analyzer and have the ability to multi-task well.”

As one of the youngest in a family of eight, Diaz learned about hard work from her immigrant parents. Both were blue collar workers who came from Mexico to Los Angeles where they found jobs; her father as a welder and her mother as an assembly line worker. Although her father Alberto died six years ago of cancer, her mother Elodia still lives in Pico Rivera .

“My parents were very hard workers who were very dedicated to their jobs. They never took a day off work,” said Diaz. “My mom worked in the Central Crenshaw area and had to ride the bus for an hour and a half to get to work but she still made it to work on time.”

After graduating from Garfield High School in 1989, Diaz attended California State University, Northridge, where she earned her undergraduate degree in civil engineering. For a while she considered majoring in business but after taking her first engineering class she discovered her love for math. She went on to get her master ‘ s degree in construction management at California State University, Long Beach.

“After taking an engineering class, I knew I had found my passion,” said Diaz. “I can’t say that it was easy. It was challenging but it was also rewarding.”

On her way up the career ladder, she occasionally felt the sting of being overlooked and not taken seriously; Diaz recalls one meeting in particular where a colleague gave credit for her idea to a man in the room.

“I’ve learned to deal with it,” she said. “Sometimes it’s hard knowing that I have to prove myself a little bit more and that I have to validate myself with facts but as a woman we have to work a little bit harder.”

But her hard work has paid off and she has the full backing and confidence of her bosses—both of whom are men.

“We are very proud of Esther,” said Diaz’ supervisor David Howard, Los Angeles County Department of Public Works assistant deputy director. “She’s an excellent employee and project manager.”

When Diaz is not at work, she enjoys hiking and traveling out of the country. A glimpse of her passport will reveal that she’s been to Spain, Greece, London, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Hawaii.

Her advice to young women eager to follow in her footsteps:

“Do it. It’s going to be hard work and require a lot of dedication, but at the end of the day it’s very satisfying,” Diaz said. “You can overcome any obstacle that comes your way. If people tell you something is hard. Don’t believe it until you try it.”

South L.A. Residents to Receive Life Saving Care Faster

When someone is having a heart attack, time is of the essence; minutes after it stops receiving blood, the heart muscle begins to die causing permanent damage. Eventually, the heart will simply stop. In South Los Angeles, however, the nearest available treatment was more than 10 miles away – and many minutes away to hospitals around the county as far as Torrance or downtown Los Angeles.

No longer.

St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood is now a certified ST Elevation Myocardial Infarction (known as STEMI) Center, offering trained cardiologists and immediate treatment for anyone suffering a heart attack.  There are now 34 such centers in LA County, with St. Francis and Harbor-UCLA Medical Center as the other such locations in the Second District.  The new center is particularly important for Los Angeles County, considering that coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death for residents–with blacks and Latinos suffering the highest rates among all other ethnic groups.

The Catheterization Lab where patients are taken to have any angioplasty procedures and stents placed.

“The heart is a muscle like the brain,” said Adam Garcia, a cardiovascular and radiology technician at St. Francis. “If it doesn’t get fed, it won’t do well. And so that is why we have to take care of the problem as fast as possible.”

Within minutes at St. Francis, trained staff can stabilize a patient, insert a stent in a blocked artery or perform surgery. The STEMI Center compliments The Heart Center at St. Francis Medical Center, which has a full-time staff of cardiologists, specialty trained nurses, surgeons and technicians who offer a full range of heart care services. Quick treatment can not only save lives, but also reduce the risk of long-term heart damage and prevent life-threatening complications.

“We needed to provide this care and so this is super exciting,” said Dr. Michael Stephen, Chief of Staff, St. Francis Medical Center.

Added Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who attended the launch of the new center: “The residents of South Los Angeles deserve access to high-quality services in their community and the opening of this new receiving center does just that.  Lives will be improved and even saved because of what is happening today.”

Can Housing L.A. County’s Homeless Families Save Money?

In Los Angeles County, 7,391 families struggle nightly to find a way to survive without shelter. In 2010, several agencies began to develop a regional approach to providing not just housing, but supportive services and need-based assistance to better help homeless families regain stability. In some cases, mental health and substance abuse services, or housing assistance made the difference.

The Family Solutions Centers started last March with $3.7 million in city and county funding, with the goal of rapidly rehousing homeless households and offering centers throughout Los Angeles County where homeless can go to have problems professionally assessed. To date, there are seven lead agencies that host Family Solution Centers in six of the eight service planning areas in Los Angeles County. These Family Solutions can direct families to health services, employment assistance services, rental assistance or emergency housing. And the program has already proven to be successful, having seen 1,542 families between March and December. Three hundred and two of those families were able to avoid homelessness, 305 were placed in interim housing, and 417 were provided permanent housing.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved an additional $10.2 million to set up more Family Solution Centers to offer more services. An additional $2.4 million is also being considered for mental health services. The centers will extend to at least eight agencies and promises to service all eight service planning areas in Los Angeles County. The services will be expanded to include social service case managers and substance abuse treatment. The expanded program will promote collaboration between public agencies and homeless service providers and be called the Homeless Family Solutions System. The system also includes the collection of data to assess which programs are working and to track long term success with families.

“Families are the core of our community,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “And today we have the opportunity to improve the way we deliver services to those families most in need.”

Christine Mirasy-Glasco, executive director of Upward Bound House, a community-based social service agency, testified before Board of Supervisors Tuesday in support of expanding Family Solutions Centers. The centers, she said, have streamlined the process of getting help for families. “Families used to have to travel around the entire county every day looking for services,” Mirasy-Glasco said. “This changes all of that.”

A study by the University of Pennsylvania found that 85 percent of homeless people in Philadelphia who were given housing and support were still in housing two years later and were unlikely to become homeless again.
Research shows that people spend less time in expensive emergency rooms and hospital beds when they have housing. Children are able to attend school and do homework when they have a warm home, a bed to sleep in and a sturdy table to write on.

“It is a proven program. It works. And it’s been evaluated,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added, “Without question, supporting homeless families with services and housing saves money in the long run. It simply costs less to serve and house than it does to ignore. It’s an investment in our future.”

Click here for more information about Family Service Centers.

New Surgical Building Inaugurated at Harbor-UCLA

Walking through the gleaming new hallways, inspecting the state of the art equipment and monitors of the new emergency/trauma and surgery building at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in January,  Dr. Timothy Van Natta could not stop smiling. As the interim chief medical officer of the hospital, he remembers the challenges of performing heart surgery or operating on a gunshot wound in the cramped spaces of the old hospital, built in 1963.

In April, however, his entire staff will be working in the new facility, which was constructed and finished on time and $10 million under budget. The expansive 190,000 square-foot facility features separate adult and pediatric emergency departments with a total of 80 treatment rooms, seven trauma resuscitation rooms, 16 operating rooms, and pre- and post-operative patient areas — significantly more than the capacity of the older facility.

“The people of the county who receive their healthcare here are going to have a much, much better experience than they have had in the past,” said Van Natta, noting that the ER has approximately 80,000 visits per year.

The new building also has a radiological suite that includes x-ray, ultrasound and CT technology housed directly in the ER so patients do not have to be transported across the hospital for diagnostic tests. The new facility forms one part of a larger, more holistic approach to healthcare that emphasizes prevention. With the Affordable Care Act, patients have more choices, so county facilities had to keep up to be competitive, noted Delvecchio Finley, chief executive officer of the hospital.

“For a long time county facilities have always been competitive on quality of care…but where we struggled a little bit was on the service side…Buildings like this, really provide a healthcare experience that complements the quality of care,” said Finley. Lastly, he noted that part of having a better patient experience includes aesthetics, so the new hospital has a vast collection of donated art hanging from its walls that is both soothing and pleasing to the eye.

The new hospital which was under construction for three years, has long been a priority for Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who represents the district where the hospital is located.

“This is a commitment on the part of the County of Los Angeles to deliver high quality emergency and trauma care in this new health care reform era,” the supervisor told a crowd of more than a hundred physicians, nurses, hospital staff and elected officials on the inauguration day. “This is a day to celebrate.”

For some patients, the new hospital is just the icing on an institution that already had excellent patient care. In December 2012, Richard Williams’ 13-year-old son Ricky was stabbed in the heart. Doctors gently warned Williams that it would be touch and go, but after several hours of surgery, Ricky was saved.

“This new building means a lot to me,” said Williams. “It signifies not only new technology, but also how many other families will be saved here.”

Board Chairmanship 2013: Goals and Achievements















It has been my honor and pleasure to chair the Board of Supervisors this past year, and I want to convey my heartfelt appreciation to my colleagues on the Board now that my tenure is concluded. The accomplishments we have achieved together this year have been the result of collaboration and cooperation – not the work of just one person. Also, congratulations to Supervisor Don Knabe for assuming the gavel.

This year, the Board identified several priorities where improving accountability and transparency served as the underlying motivation. Now as I end my tenure as Chairman, I am hopeful that some of the work we have done will make a difference in how our constituents receive information about their county government.

On Tuesdays, during our regularly scheduled meetings, we have increased the number of public updates, adding ones from our departments of Health Services and Probation, the Jail Violence Commission Implementation Monitor and more recently from Children and Family Services. These updates are designed to inform the public of the status of significant public policy issues such as the county’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act and Public Safety Realignment, policing and incarceration practices and protection of the children under our responsibility.

One of this year’s accomplishments we can all embrace was the appointment of an inspector general for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. With the confirmation of Max Huntsman, a deputy supervisor in the Public Integrity Division at the L.A. District Attorney’s office we can be more assured that the chronic problems of inmate maltreatment at the hands of deputies will be dealt with in a manner that promotes greater accountability, constitutional policing and restores public confidence.

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Likewise, the Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection, with its mandate to review all the county departments that deal with child welfare, will provide recommendations that I expect will ultimately result in structural, systemic changes that will protect our most vulnerable residents—children.

As Board Chairman, I also had the responsibility of chairing the meetings of the Countywide Criminal Justice Coordination Committee. Together we have worked hard to understand, to measure and to mitigate the impact of realignment – the mandated transfer of inmates from state prisons to Los Angeles County for supervision. Yet by far, it is our ongoing discussions about recidivism, how we define it and how we measure our success at re-entry that have and will be crucial to this effort.  We are looking forward to an annual report that documents the committee’s work and accomplishments this past year. I want to thank Mark Delgado and the committee’s staff for their work this year as well.

I also want to highlight our work on the First 5 L.A. Commission, where we were able to increase funding for early childhood education, develop resources for identifying early signs of autism in younger children and find more money for permanent housing for homeless families. The commission also established programs to help at-risk young fathers and young mothers learn parenting skills. I would like to thank Kim Belshe and the First 5 Commission staff.

I’d like to thank the Chief Officer, County Counsel, the Auditor-Controller and the rest of the County family for their work, patience and cooperation.

Thanks to Sachi Hamai and the staff of the Board Executive office for their support. Their standard of professionalism is one we came to appreciate even more over the course of the last year.

Finally, a very special thanks to the staff members of the Second District, for they have been exemplary and L.A. County is better for it.

A hallmark of our representative government, particularly at the local level, is the ability to turn over the reins of leadership seamlessly.  And while we bring to the chairmanship our own priorities and style, we do so mindful that while we may differ on matters of politics and policy we  uphold a tradition of civil discourse and informed deliberation.

It has been an honor to serve as Board Chairman.Hide content

2012-2013 Board Priorities and Achievements

Children and Families Well-Being Priorities

• Pursue an integrated, multi-disciplinary approach on efforts to address human trafficking

• Support for more effective Transition Age Youth services



• The Sex Trafficking Task Force created a Countywide response model to combat the sex trafficking of children

• In a joint motion with Supervisor Knabe, called for the State of California to increase criminal penalties for adults who either buy or attempt to buy sex with children by closing the loophole that allow “Johns” to avoid jail time and felony charges

• Departments of Mental Health and Children and Family Services are working together to clarify the Multi-Disciplinary Team recommendations to identify specific treatment services needed and agencies to provide these services within the youths’ neighborhoods
• Department of Public Health created a vetted substance abuse provider list and enhanced their electronic reporting system to identify Probation and DCFS youths who receive their services

• Youths with no substance abuse related court orders are screened for potential substance abuse issues

• Department of Public Social Services’ Pathway to Success program designed a four-week job readiness and job activity course for General Relief Opportunities for Work (GROW) Transition Age Youth participants
• Community and Senior Services implemented a year-round subsidized employment program for low-income or foster/probation youth

• Department of Mental Health will increase psychiatric services that target adolescents by reducing emergency room crisis overcrowding and providing urgent care center access

• A tracking application was created to track outcome data electronically, which obtains data through an electronic interface with DCFS’ Child Welfare Services/Case Management System

Municipal Services and Capital Projects Priorities

• Develop and rationalize the County’s approach to economic development and low and moderate income housing efforts in the aftermath of the dissolution of redevelopment agencies

• Review seismic safety, security and efficiency of the Hall of Administration and develop options for modernization and possible replacement of the building


• Community Development Commission and the CEO prepared the Affordable Housing and Economic Development Framework

• In a joint motion with Supervisor Molina, as amended, allocated $15M to the CDC to release an affordable housing Notice of Funding Availability with no less than half of the funds being allocated for homeless-special needs populations

• CEO completed the Phase 1 Building Evaluation Report of the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration (HOA) which analyzed the HOA from an architectural, structural, seismic, mechanical, plumbing, life, fire safety and electrical standpoint

• CEO is in process of developing options for replacement of the HOA that will vary in size and cost

Health and Mental Health Priorities

• Implement health care reform

• Leverage MHSA to ensure that the County is making optimal use of the resources it receives



• Establish goal to meet 300,000 enrollment by December 2013 into Healthy Way LA coverage program

• Established over 130 “Patient-Centered Medical Homes” throughout DHS sites

• Implemented the “Girls Health Screen”, a national health screening protocol for girls entering the County’s Probation camps

• Expand Countywide school-based health centers which are located on school campuses accessible to students and the community-at-large

• Nearing completion for facilities on the Martin Luther King, Jr. medical campus, including the Outpatient Center and the MLK Hospital

• County departments, including Public Health, Health Services, and Public Social Services continue to work on Health Care Reform implementation as well as on targeted outreach efforts

• Expand mental health services in multiple categories including Community Services and Supports, Prevention and Early Intervention and Innovations projects.

Public Safety Priorities

• Fully implement AB 109 realignment efforts within the resources established by the funding stream provided by the passage of Proposition 30

• Monitor implementation of the Citizens’ Jail Violence Commission recommendations



• The departments of Probation, Mental Health and Health Services have co-located at the Pre-Release Center to screen Post-release Supervised Persons’ files before their release to identify potential service needs

• Deputy Probation Officers have been assigned to liaison with several local law enforcement agencies for compliance check operations and absconder searches, leading to the development of a “Best Practices and Guiding Principles” policy

• The Public Safety Realignment Team and the Countywide Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee have established a Countywide definition of recidivism which, in consultation with independent experts, will be used to measure program outcomes

• Approved a 3-phase program to implement recommendations of the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence totaling $89 million and the hiring of 278 positions

• Hired Max Huntsman as the Inspector General with LASD oversight responsibilities.

Operations Priorities

• Promote effective development of Information Technology and telecommunications

• Reform and review contracting processes to ensure more effective calendaring and standardized language


• County departments continued their virtualization effort, and approximately 80% of the servers are virtualized with over 300 old servers decommissioned

• The departments of Parks and Recreation, Agricultural Commissioner/Weights and Measures, Probation, Auditor-Controller, Regional Planning and Public Defender successfully migrated to the centralized email system

• New mobile sites for the departments of Human Resources and Consumer Affairs have been launched, and the departments of Probation, Animal Care and Control and Health Services launched new websites using the County’s shared portal infrastructure

• County departments collaborated to develop a Countywide Contract Management System application that is integrated with the County’s enterprise financial and procurement system