More Physicians Coming to South LA

Dr. Francisca Mata received care at the former King/Drew Hospital as a child. Now, she’s providing healthcare in the community where she grew up, completing a new medical residency program at the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science (CDU).

In partnership with the Los Angeles County Health Agency, the residency programs will train a new generation of doctors to serve patients in South Los Angeles and surrounding communities. For Dr. Mata and her colleagues, the need is great and the calling is personal.

Acting on a motion by Supervisor Janice Hahn and Board Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Board of Supervisors approved startup funds to establish residency programs in both psychiatry and family medicine. Dr. Mata is part of the first class.

“We have a dramatic shortage of primary care and mental health clinicians in this nation, and this shortage is most acutely felt in communities such as South Los Angeles,”  Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “It is vital that we empower doctors-in-training to become medical leaders who promote wellness and healthcare equity in a compassionate manner.

“This residency program will create a new pipeline for our homegrown LA County physicians,” added Supervisor Hahn.

The Family Medicine residents will rotate through Department of Health Services facilities in the southern region of the County, including the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, which will be their home base for inpatient rotations.

The Psychiatry residents will focus on ambulatory services in communities that comprise the County’s Service Planning Area 6, which includes Athens, Compton, Crenshaw, Florence, Hyde Park, Lynwood, Paramount and Watts. Their primary training site will be the Kedren Community Health Center in South LA.

CDU is an accredited Graduate Medical Education Sponsoring Institution. The Family Medicine residency started off with eight residents, but is expected to enroll 24 residents by 2020. The Psychiatry residency had four residents to begin with, but is expected to enroll 16 residents by 2021.

Empowerment Congress Café Promotes Mental Health

Empowerment Congress Mental Health Cafe held at the Los Angeles Child Guidance Clinic. All photos by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Empowerment Congress (EC) Mental Health Committee, and the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (DMH) hosted a café to highlight new and innovative ways of promoting positive health and well-being in the community.

Over 200 people attended the event, which featured interactive exhibits showcasing all five aspects of the mental health services the County provides, including psychiatry, psychology, nursing, social work, and peer resource.

“We want to ensure that you learn as much as you can today and that you also learn how to remain engaged,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.  “The County is counting on you to make “Your DMH” as dynamic, diverse and multidimensional as you are.”

“The EC Mental Health Committee is excited to host an interactive event with the community that highlights the new DMH,” said EC Mental Health Committee Chairman Dr. Jack Barbour.

The event also highlighted the critical services for particularly vulnerable residents, including Street Outreach and Engagement in Skid Row and the rest of the County, Outpatient Services, and Prevention and Early Intervention. DMH has also invested efforts into innovative and interactive technology tools that are being piloted including wellbeing apps.

“I used to be homeless but DMH help me to find a place, go to therapy, and get proper medication,” said Tammy Lee, a resident of South LA.

DMH Director Jonathan Sherin said, “We are very excited and proud about our investments to care for and support the well-being of our most vulnerable residents and communities. Today, we celebrate those efforts in South LA and look forward to having similar events throughout the county.”

Also highlighted were the capstone projects taking place in the Second District including the new DMH Headquarters in Koreatown and the transformation of the long-shuttered King Drew Hospital into a state-of-the-art Behavioral Health Center in Willowbrook.

The Empowerment Congress is a distinctive and deliberate national model of civic engagement built on the core principles of participatory democracy, reciprocal accountability, and intentional civility. It is a dynamic partnership among neighborhood groups, residents, nonprofit organizations, businesses, religious institutions, and community leaders within the diverse communities of Los Angeles County’s Second Supervisorial District.

Cracking Down on Nuisance Tobacco Shops

Acting on a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn, the Board of Supervisors voted to draft an ordinance expanding the regulation of nuisance tobacco shops.

They said the ordinance should:

• ban tobacco shops in residential zones;
• ban tobacco shops within a certain distance of residential zones, schools, parks, youth centers and other locations whose primary purpose is to serve children; and
• require tobacco shops to obtain a business license; and
• regulate retailers of electronic and flavored tobacco products.

“Our communities, particularly our youth, are facing new challenges to their health and safety with the rise of vaping and e-cigarettes, not to mention the challenges posed by existing nuisance tobacco shops,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “It is important that we craft a thoughtful and balanced approach to regulation.”

“My office gets many calls from residents dealing with nuisance smoke shops– shops that are advertising and selling to kids or blowing smoke into their homes,” Supervisor Hahn said. “This is a serious health issue and a quality of life issue and we need new tools to better protect our residents, their children, and their neighborhoods.”

Back in March, the Board directed the County’s Department of Public Health to work with the 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, ways to monitor them, and best practices for regulating them. The Board also called for developing education and outreach strategies to reduce the use of tobacco and certain other substances.

Some of the workgroup’s findings and recommendations will form the basis of the ordinance, which will be submitted to the Board for approval within 180 days.

“The Public Health Department supports efforts led by Supervisor Ridley Thomas to protect our young people from harmful tobacco products that are often advertised and packaged to appeal to teenagers,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “Limiting the proliferation of smoke shops can both reduce youth exposure to tobacco products and address the many concerns of residents living in close proximity to these businesses.”

County Regional Planning Director Amy Bodek added her department “fully supports healthy, thriving neighborhoods, and will advocate with the Board of Supervisors and DPH to implement appropriate regulations to curb the proliferation of tobacco use, particularly smoke shops.”

As part of the workgroup, the nonprofit Community Coalition held a forum to hear the public’s concerns about nuisance tobacco shops. Its director of organizing, Patricia Guerra, welcomed the drafting of an ordinance to address the problem. “It is time to put the people of LA County first and improve the health and safety of all communities by putting an end to the overconcentration of nuisance sites that foster crime and addiction,” she said.

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.

First-of-its-Kind Online Tool to Address Street Homelessness

A first-of-its-kind online tool now helps address street homelessness in Los Angeles County.  The Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative and Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority launched the Los Angeles Homeless Outreach Portal, dubbed LA-HOP. Funded by Measure H, the new mobile-friendly platform empowers members of the public, first responders and service providers to provide information on homeless persons on the street and request outreach.

“With just a few taps on a cell phone, LA-HOP makes it easier to request help for people experiencing homelessness on the streets of L.A. County,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “This innovative tool will help us deploy our street outreach teams where they are most needed, so they can begin building relationships with our homeless neighbors and offer to connect them to services and housing.”

LA-HOP ( is a valuable new tool to get services to vulnerable residents living on the street. It makes it easier and more efficient for the public to request help and have it dispatched to connect homeless persons with outreach workers. The portal takes the guesswork out of figuring out geographic boundaries, by seamlessly routing requests and tracking the response. An outreach coordinator in each region serves as the “air traffic controller” for all requests and deploys the most appropriate outreach team, with the goal of reducing response times to those in need.

“This website is an important new addition to the many ways in which county, city, nonprofits and community leaders are working together to reduce homelessness,” said Board Chair Sheila Kuehl. “It gives the public a way to directly seek help for men, women and families experiencing homelessness. No single solution is a magic bullet, but each step we take gets us closer to our goal of making sure that every man, woman and child in L.A. County has a home.”

The Countywide movement to prevent and combat homelessness is constantly seeking new approaches to deliver what’s working more effectively. LA-HOP is designed to advance efforts to help people move from homelessness to housing by activating the general public to become part of the solution.

“LA-HOP provides a quick and easy way for residents to be a part of the solution to help combat homelessness by connecting homeless individuals to critical supportive services,” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger.   “With this portal, we get real-time information about where homeless individuals are, allowing us to connect them to resources more quickly and efficiently.”

LA-HOP was designed by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority in collaboration with the Los Angeles County Health Agency and the Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative. Due to high demand, it may take a few days for an outreach team to be deployed; coordinators will prioritize those individuals who are most vulnerable. With nearly 40,000 people living on the streets of LA County, the need for outreach services is great.

“There are plenty of people in L.A. County who come across a person struggling with homelessness and don’t know what to do to get them help,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “LA-HOP is an innovative tool that makes it easy for the public to request help for people in need anywhere in L.A. County.  If this homelessness crisis has proven anything, it is that our county is full of compassionate, caring people and this online portal allows them to be part of the solution.”

“LA-HOP is a powerful tool to directly target resources and outreach to people experiencing homelessness,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. “By efficiently routing support and empowering the public, this new Measure H-funded web portal will be an important part of our effort to quickly help the most vulnerable members of our society.”

Outreach teams responding to LA-HOP requests also conduct ongoing outreach all across the County. The portal does not replace homeless encampment reporting protocols established by the City of Los Angeles (my311), the County of Los Angeles and other jurisdictions.