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Health center serves low-income families

Valencia Health Center offers medical services for uninsured and under-insured in community

Posted: March 25, 2010 10:40 p.m.
Updated: March 26, 2010 4:30 a.m.

Dr. Margaret Natarajan works with a patient in the women's services department of the Valencia Health Center in Valencia. The facility provided 28,000 patient visits last year as part of the Northeast Valley Health Corp., one of the nation's largest community health centers. Valencia Health Center offers medical services in pediatrics, adult ca...

After Adrienne Stott moved from Alabama to Saugus in 2007, she went without a doctor and health insurance for more than a year.

“I couldn’t afford medical care,” she said.

The soon-to-be mother of twins doesn’t know what she would do if she was in that same predicament today. “I’d probably be losing my mind somewhere,” she said.

The Valencia Health Center has practically become Stott’s home away from home.

Stott, 21, regularly sees a nutritionist, physician and off-site specialist. She is also enrolled in the Women, Infants & Children — or WIC — program for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum women and children under age 5 with nutritional needs.

“I definitely couldn’t afford all (of) the doctor’s visits and care I get here,” she said.

Stott’s mother found the center on Valencia Boulevard more than a year after the family’s move to California. Center staff connected Stott, a married Saugus woman, with Medi-Cal and their numerous services for women.

“I can get all my health care needs taken care of here,” she said.

The Valencia Health Center is committed to serving local residents like Stott who are medically underserved. The clinic, located on Valencia Boulevard, provided 28,000 patient visits last year as part of Northeast Valley Health Corp. (NEVHC), one of the nation’s largest community health centers.

Serving families
All it takes is one step inside to see the amount of patients — many of them, families — the Valencia Health Center sees on a daily basis.

Mothers and fathers line the lobby waiting for their appointments.

Children play and read in an adjoining waiting room.
Health-center staff members take turns reading to children waiting for their session — evidence of the clinic’s participation in the national Reach Out and Read Program.

Care providers attend to patient after patient with hardly a moment to spare.

Northeast Valley Health Corp. took over the county-run health center in 1995, said the company’s communication specialist Keisha Cane.

The corporation’s mission is to serve the medically under-served in Los Angeles County in a manner that is sensitive to the economic, social, cultural and linguistic needs of the community.

“In Santa Clarita, we sometimes don’t realize the need for health clinics because it’s primarily middle-income,” said Hector Godoy, NEVHC clinic administrator. “But there are pockets of low income, and with the sky rise of health insurance, a lot of people cannot afford to pay the premiums.”

The Valencia Health Center offers medical services in pediatrics, adult care, women’s health, family planning, prenatal and gynecology care. Care for women and children accounts for a majority of the demand, said Helen Arriola, NEVHC development and external affairs director.

The health center is host to one of three WIC sites in the Santa Clarita Valley. Through WIC, about $3 million in food vouchers is spent annually in local markets on healthy food for children under five, Cain said.

A new collaboration between the health center, Facey Medical Group and Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital will allow pregnant mothers to birth their babies locally. Through the “Cuddles of Love” program, Facey Obstetricians will provide delivery services at Newhall Memorial. Moms and babies then receive their OB check-up and follow-up care at the Valencia Health Center.

Bursting at the seams
Closets have been converted to offices and care providers’ schedules are filled with patient after patient.

The center’s demand has grown to record numbers, calling for the addition of a new Santa Clarita Health Center on Soledad Canyon Road, set to open in July.

“We’re bursting at the seams,” Godoy said. “The economy is a big reason for that. There are a lot of people losing their jobs and health insurance.”

Godoy estimated that the center sees more than 100 patients a day.

He anticipates that the new location will serve an additional 125 visits per day.

In February, the center served 18 percent more patients than accounted for by the budget, Godoy said.

“It was the most crowded I’d ever seen it since about a year ago,” Godoy said. “It’s very hard to see those people coming in for appointments, and we don’t have appointments to give.”

A social strain
Dr. Rabin Kheradpour, an adult care provider at the center, said the recession has added social strain on his patients that inevitably creates more health problems.

“Things are getting worse,” he said. “Lots of people lost their jobs, then you lose your savings, then you lose your house, then you actually become homeless, then you stay with friends and they get tired of you, then you stay in a motel … or live in a car.”
Kheradpour said he has seen this regression in his patients’ lives time and time again, which almost always leads to new or exacerbated health problems.

“Having a lot of money doesn’t bring happiness, but being poor definitely brings you a lot of misery,” he said.
Staff and care providers are committed to helping each patient that they can, even if it means going home an hour past closing time.

“They work as long as they need to work until they see the last patient,” Godoy said.

Although Kheradpour is constantly busy attending to the health needs of his patients, the work is rewarding, he said.

On Aug. 6, Stott is due to give birth to her baby boy, Francis, and baby girl, Colette.

Without the care and assistance of the health center and its providers like Kheradpour, she would be lost.

“I don’t know what I would do,” she said.

The Valencia Health Center is located at 23763 Valencia Blvd. The phone number is (661) 287-1551.



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