A new school-based health center in Compton is expected to provide more than 36,000 area families with free or low-cost health care, including dental services and assistance with health insurance enrollment.
St. John's Well Child & Family Center, a federally-qualified community health clinic with sites throughout South Los Angeles, marked the grand opening of its newest health center at Domiguez High School on Wednesday morning.
"As we think about how to make sure folks have access, school-based clinics are the way to go," said Nomsa Khalfani, St. John's chief of policy and support services. "They're surrounded by communities, and when we think about having a regular place of care, being able to go on a campus, where folks often feel like that's where they get all their resources, having a clinic there can address that need."
It also helps with academics, she added.
"It's really about ensuring easy access, quality care and making sure students are well so they can appropriately function in the classroom," said Khalfani. "The partnership between health and academics is something we need to think about more. Schools are hubs."
In addition to traditional primary care, Dominguez High School Health Center will provide dental care and programs that, for example, help patients enroll in health insurance. All of that will be free or low-cost, depending on the level of patient need, to both students and residents of the surrounding community.
"We do see a lot of obesity, a lot of diabetics in this area," said Joel Navarro, the new clinic's manager. "We really try to help people out and lower their cholesterol and sugar levels."
In Compton, the L.A. County Department of Public Health says almost 4 in 10 adults are obese. The same is true for about 3 in 10 children. About 12 percent of South L.A. adults are diabetic. There's also a widespread lack of access to dental services in the area.
Jonetta Stewart, who lives in Compton, says although she's insured, she's often had to wait "all day long" to get in to see a doctor at other clinics – only to be told that she needs to come back the next day.
"It's really good that they opened up this clinic here because a lot of people really needed it," she said.
St. John's will operate the clinic with financial support from Compton Unified School District and the L.A. County Education Foundation. The clinic – which has a dispensary, six exam rooms and will be staffed by up to three doctors – has been open two days a week since it opened in mid-2012. Now it'll be open Monday through Thursday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Saturday, from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
For now, said Navarro, dental services will be only available to children on Saturdays, although St. John's is hoping to expand that around July.