Sun Valley health clinic

April 8, 2009 

Sun Valley is ground zero for Los Angeles County’s health care crisis.

Nearly one-third of the population in this largely working-class community is uninsured and more than 80% of children come from families living well below the poverty line—numbers that are particularly alarming given the high rates of asthma, obesity and diabetes in the area.

For years, the closest clinic was three miles away, in Pacoima, and was always packed because of the huge demand for free and low-cost services.

Supervisor Yaroslavsky found that situation unacceptable. He was determined to give the mostly Latino residents of Sun Valley their own clinic, an accomplishment realized in April, 2008, through an innovative collaboration that could serve as a model elsewhere in the county.

The Sun Valley Health Center—located on the campus of the Sun Valley Middle School—today provides an array of primary care and dental services through more than a dozen bilingual medical and support staff. While the Los Angeles Unified School District supplied the property, L.A. County paid $7.5 million to build the 11,000-square-foot Mission-style facility. The non-profit Northeast Valley Health Corp. operates the clinic with its own medical staff. The UCLA Geffen School of Medicine, meanwhile, conducts asthma screenings and education programs.

In its first year of operation, the health center logged about 3,200 medical visits and expects twice that many in its second year. More than 200 dental visits were provided to some 100 patients. Also launched was the Women, Infants and Children Program, a supplemental food and nutrition program for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and post-partum women and youngsters under age five.

A full-time Community Relations Specialist is available on-site to help enroll eligible families in low or no cost health insurance programs such as Medi-Cal or Healthy Families. In addition, a representative from Neighborhood Legal Services is there once a week to answer questions or concerns about health care rights, eligibility for public benefits, fair housing, environmental health, domestic violence and immigration.

“Sun Valley is a neighborhood in the Valley that doesn’t get the kind of attention other neighborhoods get,” says Supervisor Yaroslavsky. “Hopefully with this clinic, we’re going to change that.”

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