Health is on the move in South Central – quite literally.
St. John's Well Child and Family Center announced on Wednesday morning that it has launched a mobile medical unit that will serve the southside and Downtown L.A. with outreach, insurance enrollment, health education and medical services.
"It's the responsibility of community health centers to bring health care to the community where it lives and breathes, works and worships," said Jim Mangia, St. John's president and CEO. "And so the mobile unit is our first activity to really bring out St. John's into the broader community throughout Los Angeles County."
The unit will offer its services at different locations throughout its coverage area, and will eventually be on a six-day-a-week schedule.
And, as the result of a newly-forged partnership, it will ultimately dock for two of those days at Homeboy Industries, a Chinatown-based organization that provides services to former gang members and the recently incarcerated.
There, the unit will serve the employees and clients of Homeboy Industries.
"That allows health care services to be provided to this population in gang territory," said Mangia. "So folks don't have to cross gang borders to get to see a physician. We actually come to them."
Alison Camacho, Homeboy's director of marketing and communications, echoed that.
"One of the things that we see is that even though [Homeboy's employees and clients] have access to sign up for insurance, sometimes that co-payment that we would require, a monthly payment, is beyond what their budget would allow for them," she said. "And so they decline it."
The value in St. John's mobile unit, said Camacho, is its immediacy.
"Having it here where they don't have to go anywhere – it just means a great deal," she said. "It means the access is immediate and they don't have to get on public transportation, they don't have to get on a bus, they don't have to spend gas money to go see a doctor. These doctors are going to be here."
That immediacy will be there, whether it's parked in South L.A. or at Homeboy Industries, like it was on Wednesday morning for its inaugural run. Waiting outside the unit was 43-year-old Boris Jimenez, who works in Homeboy's merchandise department, and is five months out of prison – and uninsured.
"I want to see where I stand on my health," Jimenez said, who added that this was the first time he's had an opportunity to get checked out by a health provider since being released.
He said he was there to get medication for his high blood pressure.
"It's an opportunity for a lot of us that don't have insurance," Jimenez said. "It's quite a blessing."
In a statement, Fr. Gregory Boyle, the Jesuit founder and executive director of Homeboy Industries, said the unit represents "a safe space for our community to access critical and needed health services."
"The mobile medical unit will be one of the many important resources available to our trainees as they work to become contributing members of our Los Angeles community, showing their children a path to healthier living," Boyle added.
The mobile unit's route isn't fully mapped out yet, but Mangia said St. John's plans to use it to enhance their presence "at a host of elementary and middle schools in Southeast L.A.," as well as expand their outreach to the homeless population.
"One of the key aspects of this is to enroll people who are eligible into public health insurance and really increase access to public health care services for folks in hard-to-reach and at-risk populations," said Mangia.
The unit will provide a "full scope of primary and preventive care," he added, including physical exams, immunizations, chronic disease management and medication management.
Looking for a place to get free or low-cost medical or dental care? Check out OnCentral's list of southside providers.