As a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), Via Care Community Health Center’s primary responsibility is to provide free and low-cost comprehensive primary medical, dental and behavioral health care for culturally, economically and socially marginalized community members. While we have always seen the impacts of poverty, food insecurity, lack of housing, employment and education on the health of our patients, never has it been so stark as during COVID-19. Staff report a significant uptick in requests for food, housing and employment. Particularly at risk are our 2,400 undocumented patients, 30% of our patient population, who have been entirely left out of all public economic relief initiatives. As a vital resource and medical home for our community, Via Care has stepped up our response to worsening economic and social conditions in the following ways:
Via Care has increased the impact of our food distribution in partnership with the L.A. Regional Foodbank, starting with 200 families in January and now serving over 1,500 low-income families monthly.
In partnership with Baby2Baby, Via Care provides all pregnant patients, or patients with infants, with a week’s supply of diapers. We are working with Baby2Baby to include infant formula as well.
Via Care has trained one of its case managers in housing navigation and is currently seeking funding for a full-time housing navigator to address the increasing requests from patients on the brink of homelessness.
In partnership with Managed Career Solutions (MCS), Via Care is developing a program to screen, train and place patients who have recently exited incarceration into permanent employment. We hope to extend this pilot to a broader group of patients later in the year.
Stark disparities in COVID-19 infection and death rates in our community underscore the severe impact the virus is having among Latinos in East L.A. These disparities compound the already tremendous barriers our community faces to survive the epidemic, both physically and economically. East L.A.’s infection rate is 379/100,000, one of the highest rates in the County (LAC 312/100,000). Latinos in Los Angeles County have been infected by coronavirus in greater numbers than any other ethnicity (9,236 compared to 3,667 Whites and 1,316 Blacks) and are dying at a higher rate (539/100,000 compared to 404/100,000 Whites, 263/100,000 Asians and 175/100,000 Blacks).
In East L.A., Via Care is an anchor safety-net institution, and it is imperative that we not turn a blind eye to the economic realities of our patients during this difficult time. We will continue to creatively and courageously work with our community partners to address the social determinants of health of our patients.
Deborah Villar, CEO
Via Care Community Health Center
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