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St. John’s Well Child & Family Center expanding healthcare

Staff trained to protect undocumented and trans clients

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St. John’s Well Child & Family Center President and CEO Jim Mangia (fourth from the left) with staff (Photo courtesy Mangia)

For Los Angeles County’s undocumented immigrants and transgender residents, a recently approved expansion of funding by the LA County Board of Supervisors for the My Health LA program comes as welcome news. After months of deliberations, the Department of Health Services reached an agreement with community clinics, including the county’s largest clinical system, St. John’s Well Child & Family Center, to support countywide universal coverage in a historic expansion of immigrant health services and access to care.

My Health LA is a partnership between the County and local community clinics and health centers aimed at providing healthcare for every county resident. Clinics provide primary care services like screenings, physicals, chronic disease management and prescription medications. The Supervisors’ Nov. 20 action addresses the healthcare needs of undocumented immigrants who are ineligible for coverage under the Affordable Care Act because of their immigration status.

Supervisor Hilda Solis said it was “one of the very few in the entire nation that exists that provides this kind of service.”

While the Department of Health Services offers specialty care and more acute services, Jim Mangia, the openly gay President and CEO St. John’s Well Child & Family Centers, points out that non-profit healthcare service providers are critical to the over 150,000 county residents who are dependent on free or low cost healthcare. The Board action raises the cap to 165 thousand residents.

“The 17 St. John’s Well Child & Family Centers currently serve over 25,000 residents enrolled in My Health LA and with an overall client base of 100,000 patients of all ages through the network of health centers and school-based clinics in Central, South LA and Compton, is the largest single provider,” Mangia told the Los Angeles Blade.

Mangia said that under the new My Health LA partnership terms, “patients must be able to get an appointment for routine care within 21 days.” Currently some people wait up to three months for a visit. But, he adds, “urgent primary care must be made available within 96 hours.”

With the omnipresent threat of enforcement actions by the U. S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement agency, (ICE), some in the immigrant community eschew even basic healthcare out of fear of being caught up in an ICE raid, followed by deportation. Mangia said that his staff is trained to ensure the protection of their immigrant clients. Additionally, they are culturally and language competent  to better serve patients and their families.

“Rather than just wait and react, we figured we would equip our staff,” Mario Chavez, director of government affairs at St. John’s, told Healthcare Dive Magazine last September. “We had to have a game plan, given all the fear in the community. We couldn’t be reactionary.”

St. John’s makes sure its front desk staff and clinicians are “made clear” on the rights granted to them and their patients by the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure. Front desk employees are also given a script to prepare them for questions they may be asked by ICE agents. Managers are trained in how to read warrants.

Staff have also learned how to form a human shield to prevent apprehension. If the worst situation arises, St. John’s staff have a protocol for keeping ICE agents in place while patients are locked in their rooms.

“We shouldn’t have to compromise our constitutional rights as citizens or residents in this country in the name of national security when there’s clearly a due process,” Chavez told Healthcare Dive Magazine.

Another area of much needed funding expansion is an increase for the funding of pharmaceutical drugs, which St. John’s is required to provide at no cost to patients enrolled in the program.

“There’s now an agreement to look at increasing grants targeted for pharmaceuticals,” Mangia tells the Los Angeles Blade, “which would include hormone treatments for trans patients that weren’t previously allowable.”

St. John’s has been working with LA LGBT Center volunteers to target care for trans and homeless sex workers. “Currently only Los Angeles and San Francisco have such targeted programs,” Mangia says. 

Teanna Herrera, a Victims Advocate for St. John’s Transgender Health Program who connects undocumented trans women of color to healthcare, was recently profiled by INTO Magazine. Rizi Timane, the manager of the Transgender Health Program at St. John’s and founding director of the Happy Transgender Center, sees Herrera as a vital part of his team, and an asset in community outreach.

“Teanna brings a vast knowledge about trans women and trans patients,” Timane told INTO. “[Patients] are more inclined to listen and to trust her advice on how to possibly find a way into mainstream employment, as well as how to stay safe while still in the sex work life. … She goes out into the community to present and share her story and attends important community meetings where she advocates for the community as well.”

St. John’s Well Child & Family Center healthcare provider and client (Photo courtesy St. John’s Well Child)

Although the agreement reached to increase the trans healthcare program is verbal, Mangia tells the Los Angeles Blade that he feels strongly that county officials are acting in good faith.

“St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, which is the largest provider of services to undocumented immigrants in the country and the largest My Health LA provider, was able to get assurances from the County that services would be expanded to include transgender health services,” a grateful Mangia tells the Los Angeles Blade.  “At this time of unprecedented attack by the Trump administration against immigrant families and individuals, this expansion in the largest county in the United States sends a clear message of support for the right of everyone to healthcare services, regardless of immigration status.”

Trans care also includes a healthcare reentry program for offenders leaving County detention facilities. Currently St. John’s has the only certified reentry program for trans offenders, staffed by former offenders, Mangia says.

The additional approved funding expansion will also supplement St. John’s HIV-Prevention and Treatment program, especially in the PrEP and PEP pharmaceuticals program. Mangia notes that St. John’s is working with the Black AIDS Institute, which last April opened A Clinic for Us (C4U), a free and or low-cost community primary care facility in Crenshaw’s Leimert Park neighborhood.

Phill Wilson, out-going Founder, President and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute, pointed out in a BAI release that Blacks account for 64 percent of recently diagnosed HIV/AIDS cases in Leimert Park and surrounding areas. According to AIDSVu, interactive online map displaying HIV/AIDS prevalence in America, 1,377 out of every 100,000 Black Angelinos is living with HIV, compared to 591 out of every 100,000 white Angelinos.

“These numbers speak to the need for additional resources and services within Black communities, particularly communities in south Los Angeles,” Wilson said. “Clearly, health disparities between Black and other racial ethnic groups in this county continue to exist and there are still enormous unmet needs in this community. It is our hope that ‘A Clinic for Us’ will help mitigate those issues and extend much needed free or low-cost prevention and treatment services to those most in need in this community.”

Mangia echoes Wilson’s sentiments, saying that under-served minority communities must be better served by efforts such as the increased funding from the County.

Access to medical care is always an ongoing concern he adds. St. John’s clinics are located near bus lines and the clinics offering free MTA tokens and free parking. Additionally, care is provided through two state- of-the-art medically equipped two-room mobile clinic vans. For homeless HIV patients, these vans can be literal lifesavers, even transversing the County’s dry concrete riverbeds to serve the folks living there.

But many issues remain. “Of particular concern is addressing mental health issues, for which, at this point, there currently is no funding for undocumented Angelos,” Mangia says. 

Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Supervisor Kathryn Barger have also recommended that the County also look at expanding access to substance abuse treatment and mental health care for My Health LA patients. Free substance abuse treatment is available under the plan but is underutilized, so the supervisors directed staff to find out why. Options are also limited for treating less severe, but prevalent mental health issues such as depression and anxiety and the board also directed staff to look at sources of funding to expand available treatment.

“Healthcare is and should be a fundamental right,” Mangia tells the Los Angeles Blade. He hopes to improve St. John’s Well Child & Family Center’s  holistic approach to providing the County’s residents with  better comprehensive services.

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California

Following Newsom’s vaccination measures, California employers follow suit

We will work with the governor on additional ways we can help encourage vaccines without negatively impacting economic recovery

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Los Angeles Blade Graphic

SACRAMENTO – Throughout the past week, some of California’s largest employers – both private businesses and local governments – have followed Governor Newsom’s lead in implementing vaccine and testing measures for employees. After California implemented new vaccine verification and testing requirements for state and health care workers on Monday, and with President Biden following suit this past Thursday, employers have implemented similar measures for thousands of employees throughout the state.

  • City of Los Angeles: “Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Council President Nury Martinez announced today that they would push for mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for City employees, beginning with a requirement that workers either submit proof of vaccination or a weekly negative test.”
  • City of San Francisco: “City officials said that the requirement would promote safety in municipal workplaces and among the general public, given that police officers, firefighters, building inspectors and other city workers come into regular contact with members of the community. ‘With those two things in mind — the safety of our employees and the safety of the public we serve — we made this decision,’ said Carol Isen, San Francisco’s director of human resources. ‘We believe this step is a simple one to take. It’s safe, it’s very effective, and it’s going to guarantee the safety of all.’”
  • San Diego County: “The County will begin requiring its employees to verify COVID-19 vaccination or undergo regular testing. Details being worked out but implementation expected by mid-August. Vaccination is the key to fully and safely reopening the economy.”
  • City of Long Beach: “We are announcing today that all @LongBeachCity employees will need a mandatory vaccination or be required to show a weekly negative COVID-19 test. Thank you to the 72% of employees who are already vaccinated. It’s important that public institutions model responsible leadership. I strongly support Governor @GavinNewsom’s action to do the same for state employees. The standard for those who serve the public must follow the best science available. I hope that cities and counties across the state will take similar actions. It’s time we beat this pandemic.”
  • Google: “‘Getting vaccinated is one of the most important ways to keep ourselves and our communities healthy in the months ahead,’ Mr. Pichai wrote. He added that the vaccine mandate would apply to U.S. office locations ‘in the coming weeks’ and to other regions ‘in the coming months.’”
  • Facebook: “‘As our offices reopen, we will be requiring anyone coming to work at any of our US campuses to be vaccinated,’ VP of People Lori Goler said in a statement. ‘How we implement this policy will depend on local conditions and regulations.’”
  • Netflix: “Netflix has become the first major studio to implement a mandatory vaccination policy for its U.S. productions. The move comes after studios and Hollywood unions last week finalized an agreement that allows producers to require vaccines for the people who are potentially at highest risk of spreading and contracting COVID-19 on set: actors and the crew who work most closely with them. Netflix was particularly quick to implement the policy. More major studios are expected to follow in the coming weeks as they work out the challenging logistics of overhauling their approaches to pandemic safety on set.”
  • Lyft: “As of August 2, all employees working in Lyft’s offices are required to be vaccinated, according to an email Lyft (LYFT) CEO Logan Green sent to staffers that was viewed by CNN Business.”
  • Uber: “Uber Technologies Inc (UBER.N) is pushing back its back-to-office date to late October globally, and all employees in the United States will have to be fully vaccinated before returning to office, a spokesperson said on Thursday.”
  • California Business Roundtable: “The governor’s approach will allow economic recovery to continue while redoubling efforts to encourage vaccinations. From the beginning of the pandemic, the business community has been a partner with the governor and public health officials by implementing mitigation protocols and testing, hosting vaccination clinics, communicating the need to get vaccinated, promoting the vaccine through its own PSA, and offering incentives to employees and customers. We will continue to look to work with the governor on additional ways we can help encourage vaccines without negatively impacting employment opportunities or our economic recovery at this critical stage, while paying special attention to continued outreach to Black and Latino communities, of which 51 percent and 49 percent remain unvaccinated, respectively.”
    • The coalition includes:
      • California Business Properties Association
      • California Hotel and Lodging Association
      • California Manufacturers and Technology Association
      • California Retailers Association
      • California Restaurant Association
      • Orange County Business Council
      • Los Angeles County BizFed
      • Central Valley BizFed
      • Inland Empire Economic Partnership

Here’s what health, labor, and other local leaders have also said about Governor Newsom’s vaccine and testing measures:

  • California Hospital Association President & CEO Carmela Coyle: “The new public health order announced today by Gov. Newsom will help ensure that California remains ahead of the curve in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The unfortunate reality is that COVID-19 is again on the rise nationally, and in California, driven by the highly infectious Delta variant. It is imperative that we all do everything possible to protect patients and our communities from COVID-19 illnesses and death. Everyone should get vaccinated. The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective — and they are free. The evidence is clear — vaccination against COVID-19 has prevented people from becoming seriously ill, requiring hospitalization, or dying from the virus, as well as spreading it to others. To date, 75% of eligible Californians have received at least one dose, with minimal side effects. Requiring health care settings, including hospitals, to verify the vaccination status of all health care workers — and to expect those who are unvaccinated to wear masks and be tested regularly — are important and necessary steps that must be taken in this extraordinary situation. The Governor’s announcement is essential to keeping patients and those who care for them safe.”
  • California Primary Care Association Vice President & Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mike Witte: “The California Primary Care Association supports twice weekly COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated healthcare workers. The science is clear: the vaccines work, and they are safe. Over 97% of people seriously sick or dying from COVID-19 viral infections are unvaccinated. This trend is completely preventable with increased vaccination, to the point of herd immunity of our population, when we can begin to look at the pandemic ending. Twice weekly PCR testing for all unvaccinated healthcare workers fits the model for good prevention: accessible, accurate, inexpensive and easy to administer. This is an important addition to prevention of COVID-19 infections. CPCA is in full support.”
  • Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California President/CEO Jodi Hicks: “Once again, the state of California is leading by example, using data, and following best scientific practices to protect millions of people from COVID-19. We commend Governor Newsom for today’s announcement: implementing a vaccination verification system for employees in high-risk environments – a critical step in helping curb the recent uptick in spread across the state and get us back on track. Planned Parenthood continues to work closely with providers and government officials across the state to ensure access remains equitable and the communities hardest hit by the pandemic have access to correct information about the vaccine. COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and Planned Parenthood will continue to encourage every Californian who can to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”
  • California Medical Association President Peter N. Bretan, Jr., M.D.: “Throughout this crisis, health care workers have been a source of strength, sacrifice and perseverance. Ensuring all of us are vaccinated against COVID-19 sends a strong message that the safety of our patients and our colleagues is top priority. It is a duty that comes with our responsibility as people who care for others. We can all do more to keep each other safe, and health care workers in particular have a moral and ethical obligation to do all we can to protect our patients. When someone comes into a health care setting, they deserve to know the medical personnel who care for them are doing everything in their power to keep them safe. Ensuring that all health care workers are protected against COVID-19 will help put patients at ease and will help us bring this deadly pandemic to an end. So many physicians, nurses and medical workers have sacrificed so much over this last 18 months. We know what this virus can do. Many of us have witnessed the devastation first-hand. After going through so much, it is heartbreaking to see cases rise once again, especially when we have vaccines that can stop the spread of this deadly disease. We’ve come too far to ease up now in our fight against COVID-19. It makes sense for the health care community to lead the way in requiring vaccines for our employees. We will continue to do all we can to help convince all Californians that vaccines are safe, effective and critical as we come together to bring this pandemic to an end.”
  • SEIU-UHW Executive Committee Member Gabe Montoya, EMT: “California’s frontline workers in health care and frontline jobs serving the public are growing increasingly concerned as the number of COVID-19 cases rises. We support Governor Newsom’s efforts to ensure vaccinations reach more Californians because these life-saving shots not only prevent death and grave illness from the virus but also prevent more dangerous variants from taking hold. Since this pandemic began, belonging to a union has given workers the strength we needed to speak up for our own safety and the communities we serve, from demanding PPE to creating the conditions for students to return to schools safely. For this reason, we will continue to bargain with our employers to ensure that implementation of the policy includes workers’ voices and push for recognition of all essential workers who have risked their lives during the pandemic.”
  • United Nurses Association of California/Union of Health Care Professionals President Denise Duncan, RN: “COVID-19 transmissions are high, we’re in a fourth surge, and we know that unvaccinated people are suffering the most. This is a forward-thinking order from Governor Newsom which will save lives by protecting patients and caregivers both. Our nurses and health care professionals are still reeling from the last year and a half of the pandemic, including staffing shortages. This is a proactive step to protect patients, workers, and the broader community.”
  • California Statewide Law Enforcement Association: “The California Statewide Law Enforcement Association, which represents peace officers across the state, responded to the order by sending a message to members reiterating the state requirements and pledging to follow up on outstanding questions. ‘CSLEA is in the process of confirming that testing will be done at no cost to the employee and on State time and how employees will be compensated for self-quarantine if mandated to do so,’ the union said in a statement. … ‘Further, the State is not presently mandating proof of vaccine, though it would likely be legal if it did. Employees can elect to decline to provide proof of vaccination if they are willing to adhere to the masking and testing requirements,’ the union said in a memo to members.”
  • California Correctional Peace Officers Association: “Glen Stailey, the union’s president, said in a statement, Gov. ‘Newsom’s new vaccine policy is a reasonable compromise that we can get behind. It provides for regular testing at work for those who have chosen not to get vaccinated — this will prevent the spread of the virus among correctional officers and incarcerated individuals alike.’”
  • Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg: “I support Gov. @GavinNewsom in requiring #Covid vaccination or regular testing of employees. I believe we should do the same in @TheCityofSac for the sake of our employees and customers.”
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California

Employees of statewide LGBTQ+ group Equality California form union

Employees at other progressive and LGBTQ+ nonprofit organizations, including the ACLU and Lambda Legal have formed unions in recent years.

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Equality California staff volunteer for congressional candidate Christy Smith, March 2020 (Photo Credit: EQ Calif. Facebook)

LOS ANGELES – A supermajority of workers at Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, announced the formation of a union, Equality Unites, with the Communications Workers of America (CWA).

In a letter sent via email Thursday, the staff urged Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur, who is leaving his post at the end of 2021, and Executive Director-designate Tony Hoang to voluntarily recognize their union, inclusive of all non-Director level employees.

The union organizers laid out issues that merit the need for the union and what is felt to be critical concerns including addressing employee hiring and retention — particularly among employees of color, trans, gender nonconforming and intersex people — salary, raise, and promotion transparency, guidelines around overtime and fair compensation, a healthy culture of feedback, and any decisions that impact their health, safety and lives.

Organizers also pointed out that the staff at the non-profit organization had exceeded all expectations and kept the organization afloat during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. The organizers also want to ensure that all employees have a voice as the organization undergoes a change in and restructuring of leadership, as well as a shift in goals and mission.

“CWA Local 9003 is proud to welcome our newest bargaining unit, Equality Unites,” said CWA Local 9003 President Marisa Remiski. “We are urging management to voluntarily recognize them and CWA Local 9003 as their Union. We look forward to working together!”

Late Thursday afternoon Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur and Executive Director-designate Tony Hoang responded in a written statement;

“This morning, Equality California received notice from our employees that they intend to organize a collective bargaining unit and a request that we voluntarily recognize it. As a progressive civil rights organization, Equality California has always stood shoulder-to-shoulder with unions in support of workers’ rights to organize and collectively bargain,” the statement read.

“We remain fully committed to these pro-worker values, and we intend to support our employees’ organizational efforts and voluntarily recognize a bargaining unit. We look forward to continuing to provide a supportive and equitable environment for all of our employees and to working collaboratively with them going forward,” Zbur and Hoag added.

Zbur and Hoang’s voluntary recognition of the union is significant. Employers often resist efforts to unionize by forcing employees to vote or engaging in other practices to dissuade workers from organizing.

But the outgoing and incoming executive directors of the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization immediately made clear that they have no intent to do so, and instead will support the employees’ efforts.

Employees at other progressive and LGBTQ+ nonprofit organizations, including the ACLU, Lambda Legal and the Center for Reproductive Rights, have formed unions in recent years.

Throughout the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement, labor unions have played an important role in advocating for LGBTQ+ Americans. In 2007, Pride at Work — an official constituency of the AFL-CIO — signed onto an amicus brief in support of marriage equality in In re marriage cases.

Unions like the Communications Workers of America, California Teachers Association, United Food and Commercial Workers, and more staunchly opposed California Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which sought to prohibit marriage equality.

More recently, unions have played a crucial part in advancing protections for LGBTQ+ workers, including the overwhelming 90% of union support for the Equality Act (H.R. 5) and celebration of the historic Supreme Court decision in Bostock, which affirmed that LGBTQ+ workers are protected from discrimination under federal law.

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Los Angeles

BNT: Buck case highlights intersection of race & sexual orientation

Journalist Jasmyne Cannick, said that the case “intersected race.” She joins “Black News Tonight” to discuss the case and its impact.

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Screen shot via Black News Tonight

PHILADELPHIA – Appearing on BNC’s Black News Tonight anchored by journalist Marc Lamont Hill Wednesday, Los Angeles based political strategist and journalist Jasmyne Cannick, who has covered the Ed Buck case, told Hill that the case intersected race and sexual orientation.

“As much as this case is about Ed Buck, it’s also about our housing crisis, and what it makes people feel they have to do — play Russian roulette with their lives just to have a roof over their heads,” Cannick stressed.

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