Health

LA clinic to provide free medical, mental health services for underserved populations

File: Rose Johnson Brown of Los Angeles receives dental work at the free medical clinic at Los Angeles Sports Arena in Exposition Park.
File: Rose Johnson Brown of Los Angeles receives dental work at the free medical clinic at Los Angeles Sports Arena in Exposition Park.
Corey Moore/KPCC

For four days starting Thursday, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that brings resources to medically underserved populations will provide medical, dental and vision care as well as follow-up care to those who need it — at no cost.

The nonprofit Care Harbor has been operating the free clinics for five years. This year, they're expanding their mental health services to address rising demand. 

"We've had counselors in the past. We now have ... a new mental health area with two consulting rooms and a referral service, and it's a huge need," Don Manelli, president of Care Harbor, told KPCC. "People who come in have a lot of stress issues, a lot of depression."

The clinic's patients were majority Latino and African-American last year. At that time, they had a psychiatrist on site, but Manelli said this year they'll be able to provide more mental health services than they have in the past.

"We obviously can't do therapy at a four-day clinic, but we'll have consultations." Manelli said. "People will become aware that there is help available and we'll find that help for them."

Patients will be able to attend a session with mental health experts where they'll be evaluated and given referrals to local resources.

In addition, hundreds of doctors, dentists and other health care professionals will be on site to provide screenings, exams, immunizations and more, according to the Care Harbor website.

Manelli said one of the more popular services is dental, which will include partial dentures and, in some cases, single root canals.

To streamline the process, Manelli said, a machine will be available that can actually make porcelain crowns on site. Rather than getting mouth impressions that then have to be sent off to a lab, patients can walk out in an hour with a new crown.

The clinic begins Thursday and ends Sunday. Nearly 3,000 volunteers had signed up as of Monday afternoon, and Manelli said patient capacity is set at 4,000.

"It's a beautiful experience. People are wonderful that are coming. Volunteers are great. Good to be a part of it," Manelli said.

The wristbands needed for admission to the clinic were given out on a first-come, first-served basis on Sunday and Monday, but most of them have been claimed. Any left over will be given to shelters.