Willowbrook, MLK

Reimagining Healing and Care at Mark Ridley-Thomas Behavioral Health Center

More than a decade after its closure, the original Martin Luther King, Jr. Hospital building has completed its transformation to a new and innovative healthcare facility—as the Mark Ridley-Thomas Behavioral Health Center. In a socially-distanced ribbon cutting, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas—in collaboration with several county partners—inaugurated the state’s first ever licensed Behavior Health Center (BHC) that will provide fully-integrated inpatient, outpatient and supportive services for some of Los Angeles County’s most vulnerable populations.

“Over the last decade, we have transformed the MLK Medical Campus into a center of excellence that provides holistic care for our community,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “With the opening of the Behavioral Health Center, we are bringing to life our intent to establish 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. I am tremendously proud of this milestone.”

Where the original Martin Luther King, Jr. Hospital once stood, a $335M state-of-the-art facility now stands. The newly renamed Mark Ridley-Thomas Behavioral Center is part of more than one billion dollars invested into the medical campus to transform and support the wellness of surrounding communities. Attendees were able to get an advanced preview of the 500,000-square-foot building that included a new peer resource center, upgraded conference rooms, innovated examination rooms, a new canopy extension, exterior site improvements and more.

“With the County’s $300M plus investment, the BHC will serve the residents of LA County for many years to come with a range of services not found elsewhere. The decision to transform rather than demolish this building has proven to be a very efficient investment of County resources,” said Fesia Davenport, Los Angeles County Acting Chief Executive Officer.

Mark Pestrella, Director of Los Angeles County Public Works agreed, adding, “The transformation of the old hospital is truly astounding. The County’s investment to give life to this amazing building I think is emblematic of the mission the BHC seeks to fulfill. The completion of this transformation into a place of healing and restoration is a poetic outcome for a building that once witnessed tragedy. I am proud of the entire Public Works team and grateful for the Supervisor’s vision that made this happen.”

“Exodus is proud to be a partner in this building providing psychiatric urgent care. Having different levels of behavioral health care available within the same building removes many of the barriers that often deter clients from getting the care that they need,” said Luana Murphy, President and Chief Executive Officer of Exodus Recovery.

As the first of its kind center in the state, the BHC will house more than a half dozen County departments and partners, including clinical and behavioral staff from the Departments of Mental Health, Public Health, Public Works and Health Services. 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.

“When it comes to mental health, most facilities are not equipped to deliver a full range of behavioral health services that may be required to truly bring healing to someone in need. With an empty building on the MLK Medical Campus, we had a unique opportunity to imagine what it would be like to have a one-stop shop for all behavioral health needs. As the first of its kind in the State of California, I believe the Mark Ridley-Thomas Behavioral Health Center will set the standard for mental health care delivery, but most importantly, bring a new level of healing,” said Dr. Jonathan E. Sherin, Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health.

“The Department of Health Services is excited to collaborate with our mental health partners along with other department to innovate delivery of care. The BHC will provide care for the body and mind, and it is our goal that when someone walks into those doors, they know they are on their way to healing and restoration,” said Dr. Christina Ghaly, Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services.

“We can’t provide substance use disorder services in a vacuum. It has to be delivered in collaboration with mental health, physical health, and spiritual health services. BHC allows us to create a new system of care that would integrate these different systems,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Additionally, in a comprehensive effort to create a new paradigm in the delivery of care and healing, significant attention was given to the inclusion of civic art throughout the building from local artists. The exterior art piece, created by artist Cliff Garten, was inspired by water as an image of hope and renewal. The work entitled, Water to Wishes, draws inspiration from the wishes of the community expressed during the community engagement process. The interior piece, designed by Freeland Buck, is a multi-layered mural stitching together photographs of 21 homes from the surrounding Willowbrook community.

In addition to the exterior and interior pieces, another art component that will be integrated into the center is a Martin Luther King, Jr. portrait by renowned painter, Lyle Suter. In 1972, the portrait was misplaced after it was commissioned by the Colonial Savings & Loan Association. The painting was lost for several years until it was recently discovered and restored by the conservators, Aneta Zebala and Suzanne Morris.

“Bringing new life to this building required uplifting and reinvigorating the façade–no better way to do this than with art. The building design lent itself for something dramatic and inspiring, and I couldn’t be more thrilled about the critical role that the arts have played in the transformation of this building. The civic art on the façade and the lobby let you know you have arrived at a safe space where your healing can begin,” said Kristin Sakoda, Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture.

In addition to the building being inaugurated, the main street leading to the building’s doorstep has been renamed Healing Way by a Willowbrook community member in honor of the building’s transformation.

The newly renovated center is anticipated to officially open in the year 2021.

Participate in the Street Naming Contest for Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus

I am pleased to announce the three finalists for the Street Naming Contest at Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus. Over one-hundred and thirty entries were submitted and went through the vetting process. Six of the most favored names were presented to me, and I had the pleasure of selecting the top three selections.

In July of 2015, when we first opened the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital, the community submitted names for the road that leads to the hospital and selected “Healthy Way”. I once again call on the constituents of the Second Supervisorial District to help us choose a name that is most reflective of the surrounding community, the medical campus, and the soon-to-come Behavioral Health Center.

I present to you the three entries (in alphabetical order) and why the contestant presented this name; please pick your favorite by Wednesday, October 7th to become part of the medical campus legacy:


Freedom Road:

Because we are all still walking on it — and Freedom Road often leads to places where we become broken and in need of respite and healing.

Healing Way:

Healing and wholeness in the community occurs when our minds bodies and spirit are in balance.

Recovery Road:

This represents a hopeful return to recovery for many seeking care at MLK Jr. Whether it is overcoming substance abuse, debilitating mental illness, or chronic homelessness, everyone is working towards their own recovery.



Please select your favorite of the three selections.  Voting will take place on a Twitter poll.  Please vote only once.

Forward the contest link to your friends and family and encourage them to cast their vote

The twitter poll will be closed October 2 and the alternative voting method will be closed no later than October 7, and the winner of the contest will be announced shortly thereafter.

NOTE: If you do not have a Twitter account you can also vote here.

Let’s keep our promise to South L.A.

Child and Family Well-being Center Artist to Depict Local High School Students

In the heart of the Watt/Willowbrook community, on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus, a first-of-its-kind Child and Family Well-being Center, is being built.  It will include an array of services from a Pediatric Medical Hub Clinic on the first floor, to an Autism Wellness Center on the second floor, and a Family Justice Center on the third floor—all staffed by several Los Angeles County Departments and community-based service providers to maximize collaboration and service integration.

“This is a testament to our commitment to the health needs of our children and a brighter future for all of us,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Sample portrait provided by Artist Floyd Strickland.

As part of this future, the multidisciplinary artist Floyd Strickland, who is leading the civic art installation at the Child and Family Well-being Center, has chosen to include the children of the Watts/Willowbrook community in his installation.  Mr. Strickland, whose work is inspired by classical European portraiture, will paint a series of large-scale portraits to depict local community members, including leaders, youth, and residents throughout the well-being center. His hope is that by displaying portraits of community members in a prominent manner, visitors and residents of the area who enter the Center will see themselves portrayed in a way once exclusively reserved for the wealthy and powerful members of society.

To select who would be featured for inclusion in the artwork, Mr. Strickland and his team worked with students at King/Drew Magnet High School on an essay competition.  The essay winners answered the following questions: What does the Watts/Willowbrook/Compton community mean to you? How can art serve as a vehicle for social justice and equity in your community? Why should you be featured in one of Floyd Strickland’s paintings?

“Today we are proud to announce the honorable mentions and winners,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said in a message to the winners.

LA County Department of Arts & Culture Executive Director Kristin Sakoda congratulates the winners via Instagram video.

The announcement included honorable mentions included Leyonah Jones, Jesus Carrera, and Antonio Carrera and winners Daniel Garcia, Aaliyah Casares, and Rosario Rosales.

“You stood out for your thoughtful responses and will now become part of a civic art legacy that will enrich the Child and Family Wellbeing Center and stand the test of time,” the Supervisor said.

“Congratulations to the MLK Child and Family Well-being Center Essay Competition winners and runners up,” said Kristin Sakoda, Los Angeles County Art Department Executive Director, in a video message to the winners.

In addition to being depicted in one of Strickland’s portraits, winners will receive a cash prize of $700.

The Child and Family Well-Being Center is the latest addition to the MLK Medical Campus, which includes the MLK Community Hospital, MLK Outpatient Center, MLK Mental Health Urgent Care Center, MLK Recuperative Care Center, and MLK Center for Public Health, MLK Medical Office Building, and MLK Behavioral Health Center.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital Turns Five

Five years since its dedication, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital continues to provide outstanding medical care to patients from across South Los Angeles and beyond. The 131-bed community has a bold yet simple mission: providing compassionate, innovative and quality care to the 1.35 million residents of South Los Angeles – regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay.

California Health & Human Services Agency Secretary Mark Ghaly, MLKCH CEO Elaine Batchlor, TV Host Shaun Robinson, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Photo by Aurelia Ventura / Board of Supervisors

On the eve of a weekend dedicated to celebrating the venerable Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., hundreds of leaders and supporters gathered to celebrate the hospital for the seventh celebration of its kind at the Music Center Grand Hall at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.  This year, California Health & Human Services Agency Secretary Mark Ghaly was honored with the Health Champion Award while television host Shaun Robinson was honored with the Game Changer Award.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas speaks the Seventh Annual Dream Luncheon at the Music Center Grand Hall at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Photo by Aurelia Ventura / Board of Supervisors

“The transformation we have seen in the community of Willowbrook has been nothing short of inconceivable,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.  “But now, not only has there been a transformation of the physical environment of the community we know as Willowbrook – in which the MLK Community Hospital sits at the center – we have seen a transformation of the health care eco-system.”

Los Angeles County invested $284 million to build the hospital, and provided another $171 million in startup funding before handing off responsibility for day-to-day operations to the private nonprofit Martin Luther King, Jr. Los Angeles Healthcare Corporation. It, along with the other facilities that make up the Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus, is also uplifting the quality of life in the community.

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. 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 later this 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.


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