In 2003, a couple of CEOs of community health centers serving South Los Angeles began meeting informally to discuss some of the common challenges they faced as safety net providers.
Their challenges were unique to the South Los Angeles community that they served:
- Their patients exhibited significantly higher rates of many chronic diseases and preventable hospitalizations than patients in other local populations.
- They battled an ongoing shortage of primary care and specialty care providers willing to practice in the area.
- Wait times of six months to a year (or longer) for patients to get appointments for specialty care were not uncommon.
- Patients were victimized by violence in their neighborhoods at greater rates than residents in other areas.
- King/Drew, the hospital that served most patients in the area, was failing and eventually closed.
- Despite greater local health care needs, the area, historically, received lower levels of funding from local, state, and federal sources.
Word spread, and soon more local community health center CEOs asked to join the conversations. They quickly recognized the value of raising a unified voice for the health care needs of South Los Angeles.
Conversations soon gelled into a committed coalition.