The gathering on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019 at the Exceptional Children’s Foundation was a modest turnout, but a powerful message; communities require connections, and connections require mobility.
With four speakers from different offices – both governmental and non-profit represented, the panel took on public health, retirement and aging, and differently abled issues on connecting to the community.
Gayle Haberman, the Director of the Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Development in the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, was the first speaker, offering a wealth of statistics and insights. “Getting people to be easy in their communities, feeling safe on the street or in a local park – it’s essential to both physical and mental health.”
Stephanie Ramirez spoke as the Associate State Director of Community with AARP California, a non-profit that lobbies for senior and retired members. Widely known for their outreach, Ramirez offered “If you are over 5o, we are here for you.” She cited studies showing how seniors benefit when toddlers are present. “Many experiments have shown that the older populations gets a great benefit from being around little children; everyone gets a chance to play.”
Louise McCarthy, President of the Community Clinic Association of L. A. County, gave some good news – “The old L.A. Weekly building will be a new Community Health Clinic, and we are really looking forward to moving into Culver City.” She cited the network’s huge success, from the Venice Family Clinic to the Sandy Segal Youth Health Center, and advocated for public health care as an investment whose benefits were almost greater than could be quantified.
The final panelist, Tom Kelly, Interim Executive Director of the Westside Regional Center, promoted the Paid Internship Partnership program, that get differently abled people into jobs, and subsidized the initial position for the companies in the program. “Our people are known for being good workers, and we have the stats to back that up – less absenteeism, real focus on the task, and a great sense of loyalty. We had a situation recently where our intern wasn’t even scheduled , but he went into work just to see if he could help. Turned out, someone else had called in the shift, and he was able to step right in. At the end of the story, they offered him a regular part time position, and he got to graduate out of our internship. That kind of happy ending is not at all unusual.”
How to get residents to walk, bike, bus or train was a thread that carried through the conversation. McCarthy made it point to note how centrally located the new clinic on Sepulveda would be, and Kelly spoke to the primary place that public transit had in allowing Westside Regional’s clients to get to work.
Every speaker touched on the need for people to connect, to feel at home and at ease, for communities to thrive.