Willowbrook, MLK

Sickle Cell Clinic Celebrates 1st Anniversary at MLK

All photos by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Outpatient Center celebrates the first anniversary of its Sickle Cell Disease Clinic to serve adults suffering from this painful and sometimes deadly blood condition. It is estimated there are 5,100 sickle cell patients in Southern California, most of whom are African American. Sickle cell disease can lead to numerous complications, including anemia, recurring pain episodes, respiratory troubles, and even death.

“It has been a great year for advancing treatment of sickle cell disease in the County of Los Angeles,” said Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas at the clinic’s recent celebration of its first year in operation.

Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new medication called Endari that was developed by researcher Dr. Yutaka Niihara from LA Biomed and the Harbor UCLA faculty to help treat the condition.

Once thought of as a childhood illness, sickle cell disease is also common among adults since many with this condition are now living into adulthood thanks to improved treatments. But it can be challenging to find clinics with the expertise and resources to appropriately manage patients with this complex condition.

“Adults with sickle cell disease deserve health care providers that understand the disease, its complications, and their pain. Knowing the people who worked hard to open this clinic gives me confidence it will meet the community’s needs,” said Mary Brown, Director of the Sickle Cell Disease Foundation of California.

The new clinic is the first new focused facility in decades built to serve adults in Los Angeles County with sickle cell disease.

First Farmers Market Open Wednesdays in Willowbrook

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus now boasts of hosting the first farmers market at a Los Angeles County medical facility. The wellness center seeks to promote healthy habits within the Willowbrook community, and the weekly farmers market represents the latest innovation and addition to the campus.

“Access to fresh and affordable fruits and veggies allow for the formation of healthy habits,” said Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas at the ribbon cutting for the new farmers market.

The collaboration is the result of a partnership among the Office of Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, Sustainable Economic Enterprises of Los Angeles (SEE-LA) and the MLK Outpatient Center. SEE-LA is also providing weekly nutrition classes in English and Spanish through a grant from the Department of Public Health. At the market, patrons will be able to use CalFresh EBT cards and WIC checks. Additionally, SEE-LA offers “Market Match” which doubles the purchasing power of WIC fruit and vegetable checks and CalFresh up to $10 per day.

“This is your market and we hope you use it,” said James Haydu, Executive Director of SEE-LA.

The Farmers Market features fresh produce as well as local vendors– just the prescription for fighting obesity and other chronic diseases.

“But it’s also part of the prescription for being able to get outside, meet your neighbors, and enjoy your community,” the Supervisor said.

The farmers market will be held every Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. along the breezeway between the MLK Outpatient Center and the Community Hospital.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital 1st Anniversary

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas hosted medical campus leadership and staff for a celebration of the First Anniversary of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital.

“Employees and the staff here matter,” the Supervisor said.

The 131-bed community hospital opened its doors last month, eight years after the closure of the King/Drew Medical Center. Its 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.

“We can celebrate a gorgeous building with 60,000 patients coming through the emergency room every year,” said Manuel Abascal, chairman of the hospital’s Board of Directors.

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.

“I’m so proud of all of you for making this dream come true,” said Dr. John Fisher, Chief Medical Officer of Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital.


Dream Parking at MLK Medical Campus

View a visualization of the new parking structure from McCarthy Building Companies.

Recently, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the budget for a comprehensive parking structure to be added to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus.

“The parking structure represents the next phase of the County’s effort to reinvent the MLK Medical Campus,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

The new parking structure will include six levels and 1,400 parking spaces to respond to the current parking challenges on campus. The plan includes an entry roadway to the campus, reconfiguration of Wilmington Avenue adjacent to the site, construction of the parking structure, and civic art. The build also includes a program to promote the hiring of local construction workers.

“The proposed MLK Parking Structure is a good investment and reaffirms the County’s commitment to build a first-class wellness campus to serve the larger community,” the Supervisor said.

Taking Care of Our Seniors

“You are convened to help us do lead thinking,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said before a dozen health care leaders gathered at the Exposition Park Constituent Service Center to brainstorm ways to improve medical care for older patients.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas speaks before a dozen health care leaders gathered at the Exposition Park Constituent Service Center

With 15% of the population of the United States over 65 years of age, the data projects that by 2030, that will rise to 20%.

“Because seniors represent a growing segment of our population, we need to be concerned about what is going on with them,” the Supervisor said.

Experts claim that older adults are more vulnerable to the side effects of medications. It is estimated that close to half of older adults develop a confusional state called “delirium” when admitted to the hospital, and the rate may be as high as 75%, for those in the intensive care unit. Many patients who become overmedicated and delirious in the hospital are unable to return immediately to their homes, and may end up in nursing facilities, where they might become even more confused and unable to fully recover.

Loretta Jones, a community member and Founder of Healthy African American Families.

The brainstorming focused on how to reduce overmedication of the elderly in Los Angeles County hospitals and how to prevent seniors from having to enter the hospital altogether.

Many seniors in the county have in-home care, but some are resistant to having their medication monitored by in-home care workers.

“To me, it’s an imposition to have someone come to my house and tell me what to do,” said Loretta Jones, a community member and Founder of Healthy African American Families.

Dr. Monika Soni, the primary care chief at Martin Luther King, Jr. Outpatient Center.

Other medical facilities, such as the Martin Luther King Outpatient Center, are working hard to keep seniors out of the hospital by providing comprehensive outpatient care.

“We are primarily an outpatient center and our goal is to keep people out of the hospital,” said Dr. Monika Soni, the primary care chief at Martin Luther King, Jr. Outpatient Center. “What we’re really focusing on is building up the primary care medical home.”