Community advocates, county personnel and medical professionals came together April 29, to break ground on the new Martin Luther King Child and Family Wellbeing Center, set to open next year. The Center will open with 3 floors where a variety of services for patients with special needs, who are at risk or suffering through domestic violence will be offered. The center has been five years in the making, and those involved in seeing it to fruition are grateful they are finally at the groundbreaking stage, they said.
“It’s wonderful to see such an outpouring of community support,” said Dr. Christina Ghaly, director Los Angeles County Department of Health Services.
“This would not have happened without the support of [Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas] and his staff and team. This facility will serve some of the most deserving and some of the most vulnerable citizens and residents of this county. The MLK/ Pediatric hub is one of the busiest hubs in the system.
“Unfortunately South L.A. is one of the highest density populations in the county. It has the highest number of DCFS removals and case referrals. We absolutely need to build up the services to be able to serve these kids close to their home.”
The first floor of the new center will include a Pediatric Hub clinic that will serve as the primary care home for high-risk children. It will replace the existing Pediatric Hub clinic on the MLK Campus, which was constructed in 1974. Los Angeles County’s network of Pediatric Hubs offers a national model for evaluating and addressing the medical needs of children in the foster care system and those who have experienced abuse, according to a spokesperson for the supervisor.
The second floor, dedicated to kids and adults with special needs is something Special Needs Network president, Areva Martin is personally excited about. Community partners, the Special Needs Network and St. John’s Well Child and Family Center – will serve both children in South L.A. who have autism spectrum disorders, as well as their families. Providers for children with autism are in short supply nationwide, particularly in urban communities, they said.
“It’s such an honor to be speaking to you on such an historic day,” she told the audience before the official groundbreaking.
“Today kids in Los Angeles County in California with autism and in the foster care system are rising. The MLK Child wellbeing center is the state’s first comprehensive autism center and evidence of an entire community that is rising. The thought of opening a comprehensive autism center in the heart of South L.A. offering the very best service to parents and kids is becoming a reality today.
“As a mother of a son on the autism spectrum I know this center is a game changer. Kids with a whole range of disabilities no longer have to wonder about where they can get help. We understand the needs in our community.
If you’ve ever had to drive for two and a half hours from Los Angeles to Encino for a 45 minute speech therapy session, if you’ve ever had to spend months trying to find a dentist who could provide a simple dental exam for a special needs child or adult and if you’ve ever wondered where you could get the help for your teen or young adult after being turned down by the regional center…
“See, this center and the many services it will provide: medical, dental, early diagnostic, STEM, music and dance therapy, speech, OT, job training… This center is the answer that the entire community has been waiting for. “
On the top floor, a Family Justice Center will be available for those experiencing domestic violence and other unsafe situation, said an MRT spokesperson.
There are already two such Centers in L.A., one based at the LAC+USC Medical Campus and another in the San Fernando Valley. The new Center at MLK Campus will expand the program to residents in the southern part of the County. Consistent with the Center’s overall theme, the Family Justice Center will offer comprehensive medical, mental health, legal and social services all in one place
“It is precisely during our moments of greatest challenge when we most need high quality, integrated, and holistic services,” Ridley-Thomas said. “This auspicious new facility will create such a healing environment.”