Mega-Clinic Provides Free Healthcare to 1,000 Homeless People

More than 700 Healthcare Professionals Joined Care Harbor on November 15 to Help Those with Limited or No Access to Healthcare

Care Harbor, a nonprofit, volunteer-based charity, began its 11th annual event at The Reef in Downtown Los Angeles with a day solely dedicated to providing free healthcare services to people experiencing homelessness in the Southern California region.

Dental work for patients from Care Harbor.  Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors

“The homeless crisis in Los Angeles is everyone’s problem,” said Don Manelli, president of Care Harbor. “That is why Care Harbor is devoting an entire clinic day to the special needs of those experiencing homelessness. There’s a great need to bring the basic healthcare services to those with no homes and poor access to healthcare.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, a major sponsor of the event and a leader in the effort to provide housing for the unsheltered population, called homelessness “the moral crisis of our time.”

Eye examinations available on site. Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors

“We don’t just have a housing crisis” the Supervisor said, “we have a healthcare crisis. We have a crisis of untreated addiction and substance abuse, of mental illness, of the trauma and suffering that comes with poverty.”

The lifespan for people who are homeless is cut short by 20 years relative to those who are not, he noted, adding that people experiencing homelessness have a 1 in 59 chance of dying on the streets. Put into perspective, that is double the rate of homicides in our County.

More than 58,000 Angelenos are experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County. For every 133 people that are housed through County services, 150 more become newly homeless.

Optometry and glasses provided at Care Harbor. Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors

According to an October 2019 report released by the L.A. County Department of Public Health, the number of homeless deaths doubled from 536 in 2013 to 1,047 in 2018, but the death rate, which accounts for increases in the total number of homeless people, increased by over a third during that same period. The report cites coronary heart, drug/alcohol overdose, liver disease/cirrhosis and hypertensive heart disease among the leading causes of homeless deaths.

La Tina Jackson of the L.A. County Department of Public Health called for compassion for the most vulnerable population among those who are homeless — people struggling with mental illnesses.

Blood pressure taken. Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors

“People with chronic mental illness are only a subset of the homeless population, but without question they are the most vulnerable; what is black and white, however, is the tremendous stigma faced by this population. But psychiatric illness is an illness,” Jackson said.

In 2018, Care Harbor piloted a program for the homeless, working with local missions, nonprofits, clinics and County agencies to provide healthcare services to this population. As a result of the success of the pilot program, this year Care Harbor worked with Los Angeles County departments and local shelters to arrange transportation to and from the clinic for homeless individuals and tailor services for this population.

In addition to providing a full range of integrative, patient-centered healthcare tailored to the needs of the homeless, the clinic will provide an expansive forum for social services and community resources. Services will also include post-clinic engagement and follow-up care, all of which are special challenges for this population.

On November 16 and 17, Care Harbor will open to members of the general public who already have a wristband and have signed up for services.

Care Harbor was founded in July of 2010 as a California-based nonprofit charity, with the vision that free health clinic events could be transformed from episodic to sustainable care.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas welcomes some of the youngest patients at Care Harbor.  Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors

Remembering Bernard J. Tyson

Bernard J. Tyson on August 14, 2019, at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club, during a conversation about homelessness, the first in the club’s new Destination Health series by Kaiser Permanente. Photo taken by Ed Ritger for Kaiser Permanente.

Bernard J. Tyson and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas at the Commonwealth Club on August 14, 2019. Photo taken by Fernando Ramirez for the Board of Supervisors.

On November 12, 2019 the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors adjourned in the memory of Bernard J. Tyson.

Born in Vallejo, California in 1959, Bernard passed away on November 10, 2019 in Oakland, California, at the age of 60. We lost a titan of our community. At the time of his passing, he was the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Kaiser Permanente.

He was an extraordinary individual, and what made him a titan – what truly separated him from everyone else – is that everyone else would tell you the same thing. He graduated from Golden Gate University with a Bachelor’s degree and Master of Business Administration degree and worked at Kaiser Permanente for more than 30 years. He began in the medical records department and rose to President and Chief Operating Officer, before being appointed to Chairman and Chief Executive Officer in 2012. And in this role as leader to one of the most admired healthcare organizations in the country, his view of his responsibilities did not just begin and end at the boardroom table. Bernard was a stalwart and incredible partner in our statewide work to fight homelessness, changing the course of so many lives for the better.

Bernard received various accolades and recognitions, such as being named to Time Magazine’s 2017 list of the 100 Most Influential People, and 2018 list of 50 Most Influential People in health care. He also sat on the boards of such influential organizations as the American Heart Association. But as trailblazer to the highest reaches of corporate America as Kaiser Permanente’s first African-American Chief Executive Officer, it was his examples of heroism and enterprise that have given people of all backgrounds confidence, courage, and faith to pursue their own dreams.

On behalf of the Board of Supervisors and the Second District, I send the deepest condolences to his extended family, friends and colleagues, who will all miss him dearly. Let us pause and give thanks for the fact he was able to live a life full of impact and grace. May God bless his memory and keep him in peace.

First of Its Kind Behavioral Health Center On the Rise

LA County Office of Diversion and Reentry Director Judge Peter Espinoza (ret.); Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services Director Otto Solorzano; Health Services Director Dr. Christina Ghaly; Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer; Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas; Probation Chief Terri McDonald; Mental Health Director Dr. Jonathan Sherin; and Public Works Director Mark Pestrella stand in front of a rendering of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Behavioral Health Center. Photo by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors

Twelve years after its closure, the building that once housed the original Martin Luther King, Jr. Hospital building is being repurposed into the first of its kind Martin Luther King, Jr. Behavioral Health Center.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas led the ceremonial groundbreaking for the $335-million project, which is intended to serve people struggling with mental illnesses, substance use disorders, and homelessness, as well as those who have been in the criminal justice system.

“We are breathing new life into this building, transforming it into a one-stop-shop for helping some of the most vulnerable members of our community,” he said. “With the MLK Behavioral Health Center, we are creating a cutting-edge continuum of care that promotes mental health, recovery, trauma prevention, rehabilitation, and many other essential wrap-around services that foster long-term wellness.”

The MLK Behavioral Health Center will house clinical and behavioral staff from the Departments of Mental Health, Public Health and Health Services. Meanwhile, the Departments of Probation and Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services, along with the Office of Diversion and Reentry, will sponsor rehabilitative, vocational and training opportunities to give people the skills they need to reintegrate into society. This is the first time all of these County services will be available under one roof.

LA County Mental Health Director Dr. Jonathan Sherin said, “The BHC is an expression of LA County’s commitment to shared leadership and collective action. It showcases our strong belief that with care-based solutions, we can and will divert those with significant needs from the institutions of our streets and our jails, as well as from the emotional, social and spiritual isolation that comes with internal suffering. Today is a proud day for us all as we plant a flag for a future direction that is invested in restorative care and societal justice.”

Exodus Recovery is among the community-based organizations that will partner with LA  County to provide critical services at the MLK Behavioral Health Center. Exodus Recovery President and CEO Luana Murphy said, “This forward-looking, first of its kind facility will be a model for mental health care of the future and a tribute to the community.”

California State Treasurer Fiona Ma attended the ceremonial groundbreaking and presented a scroll in honor of the occasion. “As chair of the California Health Facilities Financing Authority board that approved a $40 million grant under the Investment in Mental Health Wellness Act of 2013, I am happy to to be part of the this important milestone achievement for LA County,” she said. “This Behavioral Health Center will include 16 of the total new Crisis Residential Treatment beds that are to be funded by the CHFFA grant at four different locations around the County. These programs and facilities save lives, keep people out of jail and hospital emergency rooms, and prevent needless suffering. They steer people away from severe mental illness and toward the road to recovery.”

The MLK Behavioral Health Center is the latest addition to the 42-acre MLK Medical Campus in Willowbrook, which already houses the MLK Community HospitalOutpatient CenterRecuperative Care CenterMental Health Urgent Care Clinic, and Center for Public Health, which includes the Community Healing and Trauma Prevention Center. The Child and Family Well-Being Center and the Medical Office Building are under construction and will open next year.

Over the last decade, well over $1 billion has been invested in Willowbrook, dramatically improving the community’s amenities. In addition to the still-expanding MLK Medical Campus, Willowbrook has also seen improvements in its public transportation system, streets, parks and libraries, as well as a significant expansion in its pool of affordable apartments.

Rendering of the MLK Behavioral Health Center

LA County Bans Flavored E-Cigs and Flavored Tobacco to Protect Youth

 

With nicotine use back on the rise among youth after decades of decline, the Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance banning flavored e-cigarettes and flavored tobacco products, including menthol, throughout Los Angeles County’s unincorporated areas.

The ordinance regulates smoke shops by establishing business licensing requirements and by further strengthening existing public health laws.

“The growing popularity of e-cigarettes and vaping puts the health and wellbeing of our communities, particularly our youth, at risk,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “This is not an assault on businesses but a thoughtful and balanced approach to regulation.”

“For decades, we were making incredible progress in decreasing tobacco use among young people. But flavored e-cigarettes have reversed that trend. Now nearly 1 in 10 high schoolers report using e-cigarettes,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “By taking action now and banning the sale of flavored products that mask the smell and taste of tobacco, we may be able to save this next generation from the same terrible health effects of nicotine addiction that generations before them suffered from.”

 

According to the LA County Department of Public Health, 1 in 10 high school students are current e-cigarette users; 83 percent of current tobacco users reported using a flavored tobacco product; and 61 percent of current e-cigarette users bought e-cigarettes from vape shops.

“The rapid increase of severe vaping-associated pulmonary illness proves we have no time to lose in protecting populations disproportionately targeted by the tobacco and e-cigarette industries, especially our youth,” LA County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said.  “With 530 cases nationally, sixteen of which are in LA County, including one death, the time to make real change is now.”

More than 100 students attended the Board of Supervisors meeting to support the ordinance, led by United Parents and Students. Experts from UCLA, USC, Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, American Lung Association, American Heart Association, and many other organizations testified in support of the ordinance.

Annie Tegen, Western Regional Advocacy Director with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, applauded what she described as a strong ordinance that would protect Los Angeles youth from the dangers of tobacco. “This measure will go a long way toward combating the youth e-cigarette epidemic as well as keeping dangerous menthol cigarettes out of the hands of Los Angeles kids,” she said.

“Because of menthol, African American communities experience the greatest burden of tobacco-related mortality of any racial or ethnic group in the United States,” said the Rev. John Cager III, Pastor of Ward African Methodist Episcopal Church. “When the FDA banned flavored cigarettes in 2009, they left an exemption for menthol because it was just too profitable for the tobacco industry. The Supervisors must reverse this mistake and make Los Angeles County a leader in putting Black lives before Big Tobacco.”

Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Hahn filed a motion in early 2018 directing Public Health to work with the LA County Department of Regional Planning, County Counsel, Sheriff, Treasurer and Tax Collector, and community stakeholders to assess the number and location of nuisance tobacco shops countywide, and to research ways to monitor and regulate them. The motion also called for developing education and outreach strategies to address the use of tobacco and certain other substances.

Some of their findings and recommendations became the basis of the ordinance.

Currently, LA County has 85 tobacco shops. To give them time to come into compliance with the new requirements, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas filed a motion to extend the implementation period to 180 days.

Public Health will work with the LA County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs to offer small-business concierge services and other resources for businesses that are impacted by this ordinance.

LA County’s First Behavioral Health Center

Twelve years after its closure, the original Martin Luther King, Jr.  Hospital building will be repurposed into the state-of-the-art Martin Luther King, Jr. Behavioral Health Center with a groundbreaking scheduled on October 23.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved entering into a contract with Bernard Bros. Inc. to design and build the 500,000 sq. ft. MLK Behavioral Health Center, envisioned to provide fully-integrated inpatient, outpatient and supportive services for some of Los Angeles County’s most vulnerable populations, including those struggling with mental illness, substance use disorders and homelessness, and those who have been in the criminal justice system.

“I can think of no better way to breathe new life into the building that previously housed the original Martin Luther King, Jr. Hospital than to transform it into a one-stop-shop for helping our community members with a variety of mental and physical health needs,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who spearheaded the project.

The MLK Behavioral Health Center will be the latest addition to the 42-acre MLK Medical Campus in Willowbrook, which already houses the MLK Community Hospital, Outpatient Center, Recuperative Care Center, Mental Health Urgent Care Clinic, and Center for Public Health, which includes the Community Healing and Trauma Prevention Center. The Child and Family Well-Being Center and the Medical Office Building are under construction and will open next year.

Over the last decade, well over $1 billion has been invested in Willowbrook, dramatically improving the community’s amenities. In addition to the still-expanding MLK Medical Campus, Willowbrook has also seen improvements in its public transportation system, streets, parks and libraries, as well as a significant expansion in its pool of affordable apartments.

“Over the last decade, we have transformed the MLK Medical Campus into a center of excellence that provides holistic care for our community,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “With the MLK Behavioral Health Center, we are intent on establishing a cutting-edge continuum of care that promotes mental health, recovery, trauma prevention, rehabilitation, and many other essential wrap-around services that foster long-term wellness for our patients and the community at large.”

MLK Behavioral Health Center Open House at the MLK Center for Public Health on August 7, 2019. Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

The $335-million MLK Behavioral Health Center will house clinical and behavioral staff from the Departments of Mental Health, Public Health and Health Services. The Probation Department, Office of Diversion and Reentry (ODR), and Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services (WDACS) will sponsor rehabilitative, vocational and training opportunities intended to give people the skills they need to reintegrate into society. This is the first time all of these County services will be available under one roof.

“We are revitalizing the former King/Drew Hospital as a collaborative resource for behavioral health that will set a new standard for how a public system can deliver on its promise to provide restorative care and at the same time invest heavily in community reintegration,” LA County Mental Health Director Dr. Jonathan Sherin said. “With an arc of services across all levels of treatment intensity alongside an array of opportunities that support recovery, LA County is stepping up to address the needs of its most vulnerable populations. The MLK Behavioral Health Center will not only bring hope and healing to individuals, but to a community and a region that has been underserved for far too long.”

“With the opening of the MLK Behavioral Health Center, we will continue to work together to transform how services are delivered to LA County residents,” added LA County Health Services Director Dr. Christina Ghaly. “Having the ability to screen and assess depression to motivate healthier behaviors and provide comprehensive care for those with serious mental illness is an essential component of high-quality, financially sustainable healthcare and the future of population-based healthcare.”

LA County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said, “We are uniquely positioned to offer hope for our residents struggling with behavioral health concerns through an integrated approach that places patients at the center.”

LA County Probation Chief Terri McDonald added, “The ability of Probation staff to connect our clients to critical onsite reentry services, such as behavioral health counseling and job training, improves client outcomes and community safety.”

“The Behavioral Health Center will enable us to strengthen critical services for older and dependent adults,” said WDACS Acting Director Otto Solorzano.  “We are thrilled to be part of this visionary effort to establish comprehensive behavioral health services for communities served by the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital.” ODR Judge Peter Espinoza (ret.), said, “With the MLK Behavioral Health Center, the people we serve will have an easily accessible location in the community from which to take advantage of the critical mental health, substance use, housing and job readiness services that they need to successfully reenter society after a stint in the criminal justice system.”