Posted on 21 March 2013 by La Habra Journal
By Christina Ledesma
La Habra Journal
After a recent separation from the Institute of Healthcare Advancement, the Friends of Family Health Center continues to grow and provide services to the La Habra community and its surrounding cities.
The Friends of Family Health Center is a non-profit organization in La Habra that provides medical and dental services for children and medical services for adults and seniors regardless of their ability to pay or insurance status. Recently, the Friends of Family Health Center separated from the Institute of Healthcare Advancement, who previously funded the health center, and became a Federal Qualified Heath Center.
The center has come a long way. It first started in 1993 as a pediatric community clinic at Las Lomas Elementary School and was called the Friends of Children Health Center.
According to Gloria Mayer the CEO of IHA, the elementary school first started receiving medical care from a St. Jude medical van, which would visit the school once a week.
“There were lines of people and they didn’t take any appointments. So people would just line up at five in the morning and the van came at nine,” she said.
The lines were so long the medical van was unable to treat everyone who was waiting for medical care. The elementary school then asked IHA if they could place a medical clinic on the grounds of the school.
During this time IHA also identified a need for dental care in the community. Mayer mentions that the low-income families did not view preventive dental care as a priority. “If you had trouble meeting the bills and meeting your obligations you weren’t going to take the kids to the dentist. That wasn’t a top priority.” IHA also decided to open up a dental clinic right next to the medical clinic. The patients would see a dental hygienist that would refer the patients to a dentist in the community if they needed other treatment.
With IHA’s great relationships with the dentists in the community they were able to help these low income patients with dental care, and about 90 percent of the dentists cooperated.
“That went on for years and it was really a great benefit to the community,” Mayer said.
The clinic was very successful however they needed more space because they became busier and their patients became sicker.
“They had asthma, some had diabetes. We don’t have a lot of kids with diabetes but we have some. The kids were just getting sicker and we needed more space,” Mayer said.
The city then asked IHA if they wanted to buy the building located on Idaho Street, which use to be the administration building for the Friendly Hills Healthcare Network. The Friendly Hills Healthcare Network went bankrupt and had been empty for eight years. IHA then decided to buy the building and move the clinic there. Once the clinic started to provide services for adults and seniors they decided to change the clinic’s name to the Friends of Family Health Center.
Since IHA has all free patients or patients that have managed care plans they were losing about one to two million dollars a year and were only making about $10-$12 per patient each month. IHA has an endowment and was very willing to provide the money for the clinic.
“We felt that we were doing something really positive for the community,” said Mayer.
However, things became more complicated and expensive for IHA to continue to provide money for the clinic and the board of directors decided that the clinic should apply to become a Federal Qualified Health Center in order to sustain the clinic.
An FQHC is a government program that funds community-based organizations that provide health care to those in their community regardless of their ability to pay or their insurance status. So they not only provide funding for Medi-Cal patients but also for those patients who are uninsured or undocumented.
According to Mayer, as an FQHC the clinic has a commitment to take care of everyone, because the government overpays them for Medi-Cal in order for them to do so.
About 75 percent of the patients they service come from the La Habra community, but they also service other patients in surrounding cities such as La Mirada, Whittier and Fullerton.
Another requirement of becoming a FQHC is also expanding its services to its patients. The clinic now has nine board certified doctors and offers primary care to adults, children and pregnant women.
Braham Bahremand, the CEO of the Friends of Family Health Center, said the whole purpose of Friends of Family Health Center is “to plan for the future and serve all the people, whether they are insured or uninsured.”
Bahremand, who has been with the clinic since July 2012 right after it was approved as a FQHC, says that the future of the clinic in 2013 and 2014 is to expand and make the clinic available to the capacity of accepting more patients.
“This maybe within this facility right here or having some satellite smaller facilities for the convenience of the people, but the center would be at this facility. That is what we are going for and that is what our board of directors is hoping for.”
Bahremand mentioned that another goal of the clinic is that they want people to feel good about coming to the clinic. “When they come they feel good about it regardless of their financial status. Whether they can afford it or not afford. They feel when they walk out; that they were taken care of. If we achieve that I am very happy.”