Stepping Up as a Safety Net for Vulnerable Communities
With Latinx and Black residents disproportionately affected by the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas highlighted how Los Angeles County is stepping up as the safety net for particularly vulnerable communities – regardless of ability to pay or immigration status.
He visited with patients being triaged at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus’ Surge Tent, located at the MLK Outpatient Center, and helped hand out donations of masks and care kits with food, hand sanitizer, and other helpful items.
He also visited the Campus’ newly opened Walk-Up Testing Site, located near the MLK Community Hospital’s Medical Office Building, which can test as many as 500 people daily. To date, it is LA County’s only COVID-19 testing site that does not require appointments to help bridge the digital divide and increase access to testing in an area with high rates of uninsured and unemployed, as well as high rates of COVID-19.
“We need to design and implement culturally sensitive approaches to health care service delivery to address this crisis that is disproportionately hitting South and Southeast LA,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “What we’re doing at the MLK Medical Campus is a model of what needs to happen. Systemic disparities will not be addressed overnight, but it is our collective responsibility to step up now with services and solutions.”
“We see what COVID is doing to our patient families everyday and our County is committed to being creative bringing all it can to this fight,” said Yolanda Vera, Chief Executive Officer of the MLK Outpatient Center, which is operated by the LA County Department of Health Services.
“When it comes to COVID-19, Latinx communities are bearing a heavier burden than most,” said Arturo Ybarra, founder and executive director of the Watts/Century Latino Organization. “The pandemic has exacerbated many households’ day-to-day struggles with poverty, job insecurity and lack of healthcare access, and it is critically important that Los Angeles County not only provide a range of services for the Latinx community but also make sure that those services are culturally and linguistically responsive.”
To date, LA County has expanded testing capacity countywide to up to 55,000 residents a week, with a focus on high-need areas. LA County will soon expand opportunities for testing in Southeast LA, particularly at Gonzales Park in Compton, Roosevelt Park in Florence-Firestone, and at the Forum in Inglewood.
LA County has also partnered with the private sector to provide additional services that are particularly critical to Latinx, Black and other communities of color disproportionately affected by the pandemic, including:
- 10,000 free care kits and other helpful items, donated by UnitedHealth Care at the MLK Outpatient Center
- 100,000 N-95 masks donated by Moldex, of which 10,000 will go to healthcare workers and clients at the MLK Medical Campus, Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science, and the Watts Community Latino Organization
- Mobile-based health screenings, education and prevention services at the MLK Community Hospital in coordination with the Walk-Up Testing Site
- Free food, donated by the LA Food Bank and other nonprofits, at various sites countywide,
“UnitedHealth Care has worked with the County of Los Angeles for over 20 years, providing health benefits to their employees,” said Margaret Kelly, UnitedHealth Care Senior Vice President for Public Sector and Labor. “Through our UnitedHealth Group Foundation, we were able to bring the STOP COVID-LA initiative to one of the hardest hit areas of the County by providing 10,000 safety kits to help stop the spread of the virus. We could not have done this without the team work and partnerships from MLK Outpatient Center, Charles Drew University and the LA Regional Food Bank.”
“Moldex is a Los Angeles based company and we recognize that many in our community face difficulty in getting enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect our essential workers and first responders,” Moldex Director Rita Haft said. “We want to let them know we appreciate their courage in putting their lives on the line and want to do what we can to help in the fight to keep everyone safe.”
LA County has provided a wide variety of services since the start of the pandemic, but more help still is on the way. In the coming weeks, LA County is poised to roll out hundreds of millions in wraparound services to people struggling to pay rent, and keep their jobs and businesses, including:
- $100M rent relief program
- $10M eviction defense program
- at least $160M in grants to help small businesses
LA County will also establish public health councils to support low-income workers so they can feel comfortable reporting cases or concerns within workplace settings.