New health clinic at Washington Prep

By Lauren Jones

Listen to an audio story from Annenberg Radio News

imageSt. John’s Well Child & Family Center CEO Jim Mangia.

St. John’s Well Child & Family Center opened its school-based health clinic on Thursday at Washington Preparatory High School in South Los Angeles.

Free dental, physical and mental care is now within walking distance for many residents in South Los Angeles.

“The physical and mental services would be the most used,” said Jacqueline Zendejas, a senior at Washington Prep High School. “Students, whether they like it or not have to get things off their chest and sometimes they wouldn’t consider their friends the best option because they don’t know if one day they won’t be there anymore or they’ll go tell other people.

Zendejas is pursuing a career in the medical field and says that this clinic is inspiring.

Mark Ridley-Thomas, Los Angeles County Supervisor for the Second District, was on hand for the opening. He said it will improve health care access for South LA residents.

imageL.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas at the opening of St. John’s Well Child & Family Center clinic at Washington Prep High School.

Community member, Kenneth Jones came out to lend his support of the completed project.

“It shouldn’t be anybody suffering at home because they have lack of medical attention or transportation,” Jones said. “For many years, post-traumatic stress disorder has been overlooked and it’s only been applied to U.S. veterans, but in actuality the children who grew up in gang infested community are under post-traumatic stress.”

This center not only focuses on physical health, but has an emphasis on people’s mental state as well. It will be a place for these children and the community at large to get the help they need.

“We never had a clinic where they can go and be able to express themselves because a lot of people cannot relate to gang violence,” Jones said. “Even if they never participated, btu I grew up and live on the street with 14 boys and then one day when you get 45 you look up again and there’s only two people still left standing.”

This string of 12 clinics is only the beginning. In January 2014, ObamaCare will create many more opportunities like this in underserved communities. St. John’s Well Child & Family Center opened another wellness clinic on March 27 at Dominguez High School in Compton.

South LA organizations praise court’s health care ruling

St. John’s President & CEO Jim Mangia addresses the crowd during the Thursday morning press conference. (Photos by Andrew Zappin for St. John’s Well Child and Family Center)

The Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act was a surprise and cause for celebration in South LA, where many low-income uninsured families live.

Shortly after the court’s announcement, a coalition of elected officials and local organizations representing patients, healthcare workers and community clinics held a joint press conference at St. John’s Well Child and Family Center to praise the decision that will extend insurance coverage to millions of additional Americans.

The court’s decision will benefit South LA residents who seek care at St. John’s. Right now, 61 percent of their patients are uninsured and 82 percent fall below the federal poverty level.

“What we can say today with certainty is that the Supreme Court has upheld the right of our government to ensure that all Americans have access to healthcare,” said St. John’s Well Child and Family Center President & CEO Jim Mangia. “President Obama staked an incredible amount of political capital and endured harsh attacks by opponents to pass legislation that affirms healthcare is a fundamental human right for everyone. This is a day of celebration.”

The Affordable Care Act will provide billions of dollars in funding to expand Medicaid to millions of low-income Americans. The law also includes $12 billion for the expansion of community health centers, which could benefit other South LA community clinics.

image“This is a great day for our President, our country and our local communities. Today’s Supreme Court ruling upholds what we have all known: that a person’s ability to stay healthy should not be a privilege for the few but a right for all,” said Laphonza Butler, president of SEIU United Long Term Care Workers. “It also means that LA County’s 2.2 million uninsured residents can breathe a little easier by knowing that they will have access to the care they and their families need.”

The coalition members that attended the press conference included St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, SEIU-United Long Term Care Workers, Congressmember Karen Bass, Senator Curren Price, Senator Kevin DeLeon, Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, NAACP Greater Los Angeles Chapter, Special Needs Network, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), Community Clinic Association of Los Angeles County, and Brotherhood Crusade.

Solis visits St. John’s to discuss health reform

St. John’s President & CEO Jim Mangia leads the panel discussion, with Labor Secretary Hilda Solis getting ready to speak. (Photos: Andrew Zappin, St. John’s Well Child and Family Center)

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis today joined residents and health activists to celebrate the second anniversary of President Obama’s health reform at St. John’s Well Child and Family Center’s Louis C. Frayser Health Center in South Los Angeles.

Solis was part of a panel of speakers that included health leaders and patients that discussed the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“Because of the Affordable Care Act, every single American, regardless of their circumstances will have access to affordable, quality health insurance,” said Solis during the event.

Jim Mangia, President & CEO of St. John’s Well Child and Family Center (SJWCFC), spoke about how the ACA has directly affected inner city and rural communities through significant funding for the expansion of federally qualified health centers.

Under the ACA, SJWCFC has received nearly $10 million to expand and renovate its facilities, adopt electronic health records, and open new community health centers in the poorest communities of South LA. This funding will enable the organization to provide tens of thousands additional patient visits each year.

“Here in our community, we see every day why health insurance reform was so desperately needed,” said Mangia. “We see firsthand the heartbreaking consequences when insurance companies defer treatment or deny coverage. Every day, our staff members interact with patients who couldn’t afford to see a doctor and had to go to the emergency department for something as simple as a sore throat.”

Members of the audience asked questions about how the ACA will help families reclaim their economic security, with one resident noting his family went bankrupt in order to pay his healthcare bills. Another resident told the audience and panelists that before the ACA, her insurance company denied her coverage because of a pre-existing condition.

Many patients thanked Solis for the significant expansion of community health centers under the ACA, citing that uninsured residents would not have received health services were it not for community health centers like SJWCFC and others throughout Los Angeles County.

Hundreds turn out for South LA health fair

St. John’s Well Child & Family Center and The Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW partnered Saturday for a “Back to School the Healthy Way—South LA Summer Health Fair” held at the St. John’s clinic on Hoover and Slauson in South LA.

imageThe line stretched down the street for free vaccinations for the Tdap (Tetanus, Diptheria and Pertussis, also known as whooping cough) vaccines and other health screenings. Under California law, all students entering 7th through 12th grades in the 2011-2012 school year must show proof of Tdap vaccinations before they can attend school.

Dozens of volunteers from St. John’s and SEIU donated their time to provide health screenings and information. There were also games and prizes for the kids who attended. image

St. John’s and SEIU are pairing up to increase the level of health care access in South LA – an area of Los Angeles sorely underserved by the medical establishment. They also want to recruit local residents to get involved in efforts to organize for better access to healthcare.

According to Stephanie Allen, an SEIU member who was staffing The Right to Health Committee table, one in three residents in South Los Angeles do not have health insurance, and the life expectancy for South LA residents is 68, compared to 78 years for the rest of California and the nation.

Children are especially suffering from the lack of medical care. The Community Health Councils reports that in South LA there are only 11 pediatricians per 100,000 children, compared to 193 in the wealthier neighborhood of West Los Angeles.

This lack of pediatric care contributes to asthma, juvenile diabetes and obesity, as well as increasing health problems as children grow into adults.

“There was a mother of three just at the table,” said Allen, “who at the age of 22 was diagnosed with hyper-tension. But many people don’t even know they have these health problems because they don’t have regular medical care.” image

While health fairs can help give residents some needed health screenings and care, SEIU and St. John’s organizers say perhaps a more important goal is to organize South LA residents so they will have a voice in the debate over health care access.

A petition at the Right to Health Committee table was directed toward members of the congressional “super committee,” appointed to come up with a plan to cut $1.2 trillion from the federal spending over the next 10 years. The petition asks the committee not to make cuts to Medicaid and Medicare.

The Right to Health Committee holds meetings the fourth Wednesday of each month at St. John’s Well Child & Family Center, 5801 S. Hoover Street, Los Angeles 90037, from 6-8 pm. The next meeting will be held August 24, 2011.

Funding goes to new building for patients at Compton clinic

By: Emily Frost and Dan Watson

Listen to the audio story:


Read the audio script:

It is 5:30 a.m., and we just pulled into the parking lot at St. John’s Well Child and Family Center in Compton. There is already a line of about four of five people. It is drizzling, and it is very dark.

Antonio, who goes by Tony, was first in line. He seemed pretty proud about it. When he had come before, he said he was about 13th in line; he had counted. This time, he told his wife he was going to be first, and he was. But he was expecting that about 8:30 a.m., when the clinic opens, that he would be in and out. He hoped it would only take about 15 minutes, so it would not shoot down his whole day.

Melvin Richardson arrived a little after 7:30 a.m.

“I had stomach problems one day that led me to find out I had a hernia,” Richardson said. “I just recently, in the last 90 days, got laid off. I was working for a big trucking company, and they closed down. I was there for six-and-a-half years,” Richardson said.

Richardson is now without insurance.

“It is a little crowded. And the wait time, personally it is a little long. ‘Cause I think I came like, last week, and I had an appointment for like, 1:30, and I didn’t get out of here until 4:30,” Richardson said.

Jesus Rios also waited quietly. He, too, was an out of work trucker.

“You know the line, look at that now, it’s growing,” said Rios, laughing. “You know, I come over here because I finished my medicine.”

At St. John’s, Rios’ diabetes medicine is free, unless the clinic runs out. If it does, his medication costs about $200 for a month’s supply at the pharmacy. That is nothing, though, compared to his visit to the emergency room.

“See, I go to the hospital for one day, forget it,” Rios said. “Those people have no heart. They send me a bill for $2,000, $2,000 for nothing,” Rios said.

Rios made sure to arrive early because if there are not enough doctors that day, the clinic will turn people away after the first 10 or 15 patients. If Rios does not get a chance to be seen, “You go home and try to find medicine with your friends,” he said.

And he will get there earlier next time.

By mid-morning, Richardson, who was coming in preparation for his hernia surgery, was running out of patience.

“This right here is outrageous,” he said. “I hope they get me out of here. It’d be their best bet to get me out of here because I will get a little louder again. And I hate to say it, but that’s what it takes sometimes. I don’t want to be up here eight hours. I have a life to live the same way they have.”

Tony was also reaching a breaking point. Though he was first in line and thought he would be in and out in 15 minutes, the clinic staff could not find his file. He was still waiting five hours later.

“He can’t find it,” Tony said. “He says he lost it. I can’t believe it. I no go to my work today, but coming over here. I was first, the first guy waiting outside. Five, yeah, I think it’s been five hours.”

By the end of the day, the clinic had seen 85 people; many waited all day.