Willowbrook, MLK

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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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.”

Breaking Ground on a First-of-its-Kind Child and Wellbeing Center in South LA

Hundreds of people came out to celebrate as Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas led the groundbreaking ceremony for the first-of-its-kind Martin Luther King, Jr. Child and Family Well-being Center, slated to open in Willowbrook in April 2020.

The three-story, 55,000 square foot building will have a Pediatric Medical Hub Clinic on the first floor, an Autism Wellness Center on the second floor, and a Family Justice Center on the third floor, staffed by several Los Angeles County Departments and community-based service providers to maximize collaboration and service integration.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas speaks at the groundbreaking ceremony. Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

“This Center represents the latest in a series of transformational investments in human infrastructure,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “We are continuing our commitment to the health of the mind, body and soul of this community. I contend that these are the most critical investments we can make, especially when we focus on children, adolescents, and families.”

The first floor of the Child and Family Well-being Center will replace the three trailers currently serving as the MLK Pediatric Medical Hub Clinic, which provides outpatient clinical services for at-risk pediatric and adolescent patients and their families. The County Departments of Health Services (DHS), Mental Health (DMH), Public Health (DPH), and Children and Family Services (DCFS) will all have staff at the new Center to provide services such as pediatric and adolescent health care for foster youth, and forensic medical examinations, hearing and vision screenings, trauma-informed mental health services, family visitation, and Parent-Child Interactive Therapy.

“The MLK Pediatric Medical Hub Clinic on the MLK Medical Campus is one of the busiest in the County’s system, situated in the region of LA County with the highest density of DCFS cases and managing over 8,000 referrals a year,” County Health Services Director Christina Ghaly said. “Given its critical role in evaluating and caring for children in the DCFS system, DHS is thrilled to be breaking ground on a new state-of-the-art facility that will allow for an expanded set of services that will be provided in an integrated, collaborative manner by County and community-based organizations. Through greater partnership, we will be able to better meet the comprehensive health needs of these most vulnerable children.”

Breaking ground for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Child and Family Well-being Center. Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

“The MLK Child and Family Well-being Center is very specifically designed to help DCFS succeed in addressing a multitude of the challenges faced by those engaged in the child welfare system, with a particular focus on the prevention and mitigation of trauma,” County Mental Health Director Jonathan Sherin said. “It heralds a new era of partnership between key LA County departments and the private sector, recognizing that we must always put the wellbeing of our kids and households at the center of everything we do.”

The second floor will house an Autism Wellness Center operated by St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, and the Special Needs Network (SNN). The Autism Wellness Center will provide comprehensive screening, medical, dental, and behavioral health services for special needs children, teens and adults. Other high quality services will include Applied Behavior Analysis, speech and occupational therapies, outdoor sports courts, a yoga center and music, technology and creative spaces.

“Finally, South Los Angeles will have a state-of-the-art health and development center for children with autism and their families that will provide high quality medical and dental care as well as developmental services to an area and a population that has lacked these critical services for far too long,” St. John’s Well Child and Family Center CEO Jim Mangia said. “St. John’s is honored to partner with SNN and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to create this unique and comprehensive program.”

SNN founder and president Areva Martin speaks. Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

“If you should speak to anyone affected by autism, a learning, intellectual or developmental disability, chances are you will hear stories of hidden suffering, shame and discrimination in nearly every sector of their lives. The SNN Autism Wellness Center seeks to change that,” SNN founder and president Areva Martin said. “Through a holistic approach and comprehensive mix of personal and community health and justice, this one-of-a-kind center will provide the kinds of much needed early diagnostic and intervention services sorely missing in communities of color—the kinds that will have a lasting impact on the health of the entire County of Los Angeles.”

The third floor will house a Family Justice Center where a multi-disciplinary team of professionals will work together, under one roof, to provide supportive services to those affected by domestic, family, intimate partner, and sexual violence.

“We are grateful to be working with our County partners to establish the Family Justice Center,” County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said. “This wonderful resource for families and children in South LA will help residents confronting domestic violence, not just to assure immediate safety and legal needs, but also to promote long-term family health and well-being.  The Family Justice Center will apply the family-centered, compassionate, culturally-competent approach of the Well-being Center to families for whom domestic violence may be occurring against a back-drop of poverty, racism and other forms of social marginalization.

The MLK Child and Family Well-being Center is the latest addition to a still-expanding MLK Medical Campus, which already 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 is currently under construction, and plans are underway for the MLK Behavioral Health Center.

Renderings of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Child and Family Well-being Center at the groundbreaking ceremony. Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

Breaking New Ground on MLK Medical Campus

Groundbreaking for the MLK Community Health Medical Office Building. Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas led the groundbreaking ceremony for the newest addition to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus in Willowbrook: a medical office building that will increase access to healthcare in South Los Angeles by creating more space for physicians to care for patients.

Scheduled to open in 2020, the MLK Community Health Medical Office Building will provide primary care for the local community, as well as valuable services to treat chronic conditions. Outpatient services will include dialysis, wound care, and imaging. There will also be an ambulatory surgery center, a retail pharmacy, and a space for community health education.

The 52,000-sq. ft. MLK Community Health Medical Office Building will be the new home of the MLK Community Medical Group, which recruits doctors from prestigious medical centers across the nation who have a desire to serve in a safety-net community.

Sweet Alice Harris speaks at the groundbreaking. Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

“When you talk about best practices in community health, the evidence is overwhelming that access to primary care is a critical piece of the puzzle,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, the driving force behind the medical campus. “With the creation of the MLK Medical Group and this medical office building, we are creating an essential link between hospital patients and ongoing care following discharge.”

“The MLK Community Health Medical Office Building represents a fulfillment of our promise to this community,” MLK Community Hospital CEO Dr. Elaine Batchlor said. “This moment is about more than a building – it’s a milestone for improving health in South LA.”

Dr. Jorge Reyno, MLK Community Hospital Vice President of Population Health, is one of the doctors looking forward to having an office at the new building. “It will serve as a hub to improve outcomes, and an important bridge between inpatient and outpatient care, supporting our work in care management, and helping us achieve our goals for patient and community wellness,” he said.

Several members of the community expressed their enthusiasm for the project, including Sweet Alice Harris, Arna Fulcher of the Empowerment Congress, and Arturo Ibarra of the Watts/Century Latino Organization.

Developed in partnership with Trammell Crow Company, the project is expected to create 200 construction jobs. It is only the latest addition to the still-expanding MLK Medical Campus, which besides the MLK Community Hospital and MLK Outpatient Center, also includes the MLK Center for Public Health, the MLK Mental Health Urgent Care Center, and MLK Recuperative Care Center.

New Community Healing and Trauma Prevention Center

(left to right) Willowbrook Resident & Volunteers of America Prevention Coordinator Ebony Luchien, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, and Dr. Jan B. King. All photos by Bryan Chan / Board of Supervisors

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas along with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, and community partners unveiled the new Community Healing and Trauma Prevention Center at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Public Health. The Healing Center will serve a community that experiences the highest rates of assault-related trauma and homicide in Los Angeles County. Homicide rates in South Los Angeles are nearly four times higher than the rest of the county.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas addresses over 100 attendees at the Community Healing and Trauma Prevention Center unveiling.

“The Community Healing and Trauma Prevention Center shows the County’s commitment not just to treating trauma after it occurs, but also to preventing it in the first place,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “Our efforts represent a paradigm shift in how we address violence. Rather than managing violence solely through public safety approaches, we are counteracting it using evidence-based public health practices.”

The Healing Center was developed with input from community leaders to ensure that the services provided reflect the community’s desires and focus on both healing and organizing for change. Support was provided by various agencies including the Los Angeles County Departments of Public Health, Health Services and Mental Health, MLK Community Hospital, MLK Outpatient Services, Saint Francis Medical Center, and Charles R. Drew University. The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Bureau of Victim Services and members of the Community Action for Peace also participated in the development of the Healing Center.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas high fives Dr. Barbara Ferrer during a tour of the Community Healing and Trauma Prevention Center during its opening.

“The Community Healing and Trauma Prevention Center provides a safe space where residents can access support and services, where young people can develop their leadership skills, and where community partners can work together to tackle the root causes of complex trauma in South Los Angeles,” said Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of Los Angeles County Public Health.

The Healing Center will build upon Trauma Prevention Initiative strategies in partnership with the community to create a comprehensive approach to violence prevention and intervention. For the past 3 years, the Trauma Prevention Initiative has been investing in community engagement and key violence intervention and capacity-building strategies to coordinate strategies across the lifespan, leverage resources of existing programs and develop innovative strategies, policies, partnerships, and strategic opportunities.