Community leaders, including Congresswoman Janice Hahn (in blue), break ground on Altamed's senior health center in Watts. It's projected to open in the spring of 2014.
Community leaders in Watts broke ground Friday afternoon on a new senior care center in the South L.A. neighborhood. The health center, which will be built by AltaMed, will provide services to people 55 and older who might otherwise need to be placed in a nursing home. Patients will be able to live at home and receive primary and specialty care, along with dental services and physical and occupational therapy.
The center will be AltaMed's first facility in south L.A. Officials stressed the importance of helping people stay out of nursing homes.
"We're militant about that," said AltaMed President and CEO Castulo de la Rocha. "We want to keep them out of institutions. We want to keep them in the community...with their family."
Watts has historically suffered from a lack of readily available health care.
"I watched my seniors not be able to go to a doctor, because the grandchildrens was working, and she had no way to get there," said "Sweet" Alice Harris, a community leader who has lived in the area for 60 years. "I watched them die when they could have went and took care of herself before it was too late."
At the end of the ceremony, Harris and a handful of local officials, including Congresswoman Janice Hahn, pitched shovels into a symbolic pile of dirt.
The senior center will provide care for between 300 and 350 people. It's projected to open sometime between April and June of next year.