St. John’s Well Child and Family Center (SJWCFC) is an independent nonprofit community health organization that serves patients of all ages through a network of six federally qualified health centers, the Family Chronic Disease and Environmental Health Center, and four school-based clinics spanning Central and South Los Angeles and Compton.

The organization’s mission is to eliminate health disparities and foster community well-being by providing and promoting the highest quality care in South Los Angeles. The central goal of SJWCFC is to address the unmet needs of low-income, uninsured and underinsured residents of the service area by providing access to linguistically and culturally appropriate primary medical, dental, and mental health services, regardless of ability to pay.

The organization recently held a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the expansion of two of its health centers. The Louis C. Frayser and S. Mark Taper Health centers serve an area of Los Angeles that includes the highest percentage of household incomes below the federal poverty level in Los Angeles County.

According to the organization, nearly 40 percent of residents in the area report difficulty accessing care, and the ratio of residents to primary-care physicians is 8,603 to 1, compared to the statewide ratio of 190 to 1. The renovation of these two health centers is expected to increase access and improve care for the most vulnerable residents who would otherwise not seek care or be forced to use emergency department facilities for outpatient issues. The renovated facilities are estimated to serve thousands of additional patients.

“This expansion will result in the provision of care to an additional 8,968 people each year who have not had access to healthcare services and will be a beautiful, cutting- edge architectural addition to the neighborhood,” said St. John’s Well Child and Family Center President and CEO Jim Mangia. “We are proud of this effort and honored to expand services and care to our community in a patient-centered medical home environment.”

Mangia was joined at the event by more than 150 key healthcare advocates, political leaders, St. John’s patients, and community members, including Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, L.A. Care Health Plan CEO Howard Kahn and others. This $11.2 million expansion is being funded primarily by the Health Resources and Services Administration and First 5 Los Angeles.

“This development allows St. John’s to expand their mission of eliminating health disparities while fostering community well-being,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “As a result of this renovation, local residents will receive quality medical care for decades to come.”

The St. John’s renovation will more than double the space providers have to treat patients by creating an additional 15 medical exam rooms and eight dental chairs. Further, the expanded facility will include a host of comprehensive services, including specialty medical care, assistance with insurance enrollment, health education, and mental health care. In total, 30,984 square feet of clinic space will be improved.

L.A. Care Health Plan CEO Howard Kahn added, “Expansion of the two health centers will not only improve health access for the community but also prepare St. John’s for the demand for health services from healthcare reform in 2014.”

For more information on St. John’s Well Child and Family Center and the expansion, visit www.wellchild.org.