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L.A. Care 20th Anniversary
By Charlene Muhammad Contributing Writer
Published April 27, 2017

MLK Community Hospital CEO Dr. Elaine Batchlor (Courtesy Photos)

L.A. Care Health Plan celebrated its 20th anniversary at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital with a major initiative to combat homelessness.

The organization also celebrated by announcing special news of its new, five-year initiative to tackle the homelessness crisis in L.A. County.

Before L.A. Care leadership, elected officials, state Medi-Cal officials and community partners, L.A. Care also celebrated its two millionth Medi-Cal member mark. That added warmth and camaraderie to the special occasion, said John Baackes, CEO of L.A. Care Health Plan.

“Certainly one of the highlights was announcing L.A. Care’s $20 million, five-year commitment to Brilliant Corners to support Los Angeles County’s Housing for Health program,” Baackes stated.

He added, “It is our hope that this contribution will help our members experiencing homelessness access permanent supportive housing. The celebration fittingly concluded with a heartfelt and moving performance by the Urban Voices Project, a choir composed of artists and performers from the Skid Row neighborhood in Downtown Los Angeles.”

In addition to Baackes, speakers during the private event included Diana Dooley (Secretary, CA Health and Human Services Agency), Jennifer Kent (Director, CA Department of Health Care Services), Mark Ridley-Thomas (LA County Board of Supervisors, 2nd District), Mark Gamble (Chair, L.A. Care Board of Governors), Dr. Elaine Batchlor (CEO, Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital), and a Medi-Cal recipient.

In recent years, homelessness in Los Angeles has reached unprecedented levels. As a leading public health plan serving vulnerable populations, L.A. Care has a shared responsibility – along with other health plans, health care organizations, hospitals and policy makers – to address this growing crisis by creating long-term solutions, according to a media advisory announcing the event.

Batchelor opened the event by explaining the importance of LA Care’s work, especially with families who are not blessed enough to have health care. The initial belief is that health care is a basic right that everyone deserves and a not a privilege to only some able enough to pay, she said.

“We are all here for the same reason, to acknowledge the importance of expanding health care access and quality for undeserved communities,” Batchlor stated.

Democratic State Senator Steven Bradford, who has assisted L.A. Care in many ways to ensure people receive the help they deserve, shared he was raised learning the importance of health care.

The thing that strikes him the most about L.A. Care is the use of the word community, he said.  “This a community source, community engagement.  It’s community service.  It is community in its most basic and fundamental and important role in both serving and also lifting up the people,” Bradford said.

Kent noted the program has really benefited many individuals who can confidently say they are safe from harm.  According to Kent, half of the babies born in the State of California each year are cared for through Medi-Cal.

Mark Ridely-Thomas presents to McCarthy and Baackes. (Courtesy Photos)

A new member of L.A. Care expressed gratitude for being a part of the event, which she called wonderful, and the important dialogue about how health care can evolve to be available to more people, and hopefully to all.

“This event … is creating not just a moment in time, but many moments that have shaped Medi-Cal into the evolutionary program it has become,” the young woman said.

Health care is a right, not a privilege, said Ridley-Thomas.  He thanked L.A. Care for its two decades of service to L.A. County.

Ridley-Thomas presented awards to Baackes and L.A. Care Board Chair Louise McCarthy on behalf of the entire L.A. County Board of Supervisors.

Shortly after, Baackes presented $4 million from its community health investment fund to one of its safety net providers.

“Today, I’m pleased to announce that we have made a commitment of $20 million to be distributed over the next five years to support the Los Angeles County Housing for Health Program through their key partner Brilliant Corners,” Baackes said, prompting cheers and applause from attendees.

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