|Office of the Chancellor / Public Affairs||
Monday, November 15, 2004
Los Angeles Daily News 11-14-04
Dose of help in the Valley
SUN VALLEY -- The Los Angeles Unified School District is teaming up with the county and UCLA to open the nation's largest school-based health clinic, which would serve students and adults beginning in 2007, officials say.
Plans call for the 10,070-square-foot clinic to be built on the grounds of Sun Valley Middle School, providing 14 examination rooms where the community could seek medical, dental, vision and mental health services.
The University of California, Los Angeles, which already screens local students for asthma, will be a partner in the clinic, with medical students studying there, officials said.
"It's going to be the first of its kind," said Margaret Lee, director of special projects for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, which is paying to build the multimillion-dollar clinic. "Sun Valley is a very underserved area. There's practically no place for them to go. There's no county clinic within a close proximity."
Health experts hope the clinic will be a prototype for other areas that have large percentages of impoverished and uninsured residents.
Sun Valley Middle School has nearly 3,000 students, about 90 percent of whom qualify for federally subsidized meals and half of whom are still learning English, officials said.
Because of poor living conditions and lack of medical care, Sun Valley students suffer from some conditions, such as asthma, at double the national average. East San Fernando Valley residents are also struggling with obesity and diabetes.
School-based clinics can reach these families, educate them about preventive care and teach them about insurance options, such as Healthy Kids, a county program that provides care to kids under 18, regardless of their parents' immigration status.
"The school sort of has the positive halo of being a trusted place," said John DiCecco, LAUSD's director of community partnerships and medical programs.
LAUSD opened its first school-based clinics about 18 years ago and now has facilities at 38 campuses, including Pacoima Middle, Maclay Middle, Columbus Middle, Kennedy High and San Fernando High.
The clinics serve an estimated 100,000 students a year, but no adults, officials said.
Nonprofit health centers are currently writing bids to operate the Sun Valley clinic. The LAUSD board is expected to approve one of the proposals at its Jan. 17 meeting.
Bidders have been asked to try to include dental, vision and mental health services. In addition, they've been asked to propose ways of keeping the clinic open for free and reduced-priced medical care on nights and weekends.
Having the clinic on campus should reduce absenteeism and increase the number of students who receive medical care.
"It's going to be an absolute benefit to this community," Principal Jeff Davis said.
Many parents just don't have the time or money to take their children to receive preventive care, assistant principal Henry Fries said.
"As far as annual checkup goes, they're just not getting it," he said.
Because the Sun Valley Middle School campus is so large, the center will be built on vacant land near Sherman Way and Fair Avenue, where the school's horticultural center used to be located. More than 50 species of plants, including oak trees, will be preserved.
It will have its own parking, security and community entrance.
Maria Sesma Sooy, an outreach consultant with Fernangeles Elementary School in Sun Valley, said she is thrilled that the community will have a nearby clinic that they can trust. She said she just wishes every campus could have one.
"It would be of immense benefit," she said. "We have so many kids that are in need."
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