Nov252019

California to Expand Innovative Adult Sickle Cell Disease Clinics Statewide

Posted by Kassy Perry

Governor and legislature commit $15 million in funding to historically underserved Californians

LOS ANGELES – Today California advanced care for people with sickle cell disease (SCD) by launching a new initiative to establish a network of clinics for adults with SCD statewide, expanding services for those impacted by this chronic, debilitating disease.

The launch marks the grand opening of a new clinic site at the MLK Jr. Outpatient Center in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors named the new clinic after Jeffrey Smith, the son of Gil Smith, Founding Mayor of the City of Carson, who died from SCD complications in 1982 at the age of 23.  These milestones come three years after the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services first opened the adult SCD clinic at MLK Jr. Outpatient Center in Los Angeles, with its partners the Sickle Cell Disease Foundation (SCDF) and the Center for Inherited Blood Disorders (CIBD).

Now with a commitment of $15 million, Californians across the state with SCD will finally receive the quality health care they deserve.

“We have waited too long to address the poor health outcomes and premature deaths suffered by individuals with Sickle Cell Disease in California,” said Diane Nugent, MD, president and medical director of the Center for Inherited Blood Disorders. “In the United States, life expectancy for individuals with Sickle Cell Disease is 61 years. In the United Kingdom, it’s 70 years. In the State of California, it’s a shocking 43 years. The program made possible by this funding due to the leadership of Assemblymember Gipson will give new hope to and extend the lives of our vulnerable and underserved Californians who suffer from this terrible disease.”

For the first time in California’s history, the governor committed $15 million statewide for sickle cell adult treatment programs statewide. In addition, this program will help train clinicians to quickly recognize and properly treat the many complications faced by adults with this complex and debilitating disorder so they can receive the best care possible. Decades of inadequate funding for California adults living with SCD resulted in this underserved community dying at younger ages and at higher rates. Californians with SCD have higher incidents of emergency room visits and hospitalizations than patients in other states. This program marks the first time California has provided significant funding for SCD, which is the world’s most common genetic disease affecting approximately 100,000 in the U.S. alone.

“Given that Jeffrey’s story was the impetus that drove me to introduce this budget proposal, it is fitting that the first of the clinics be named in his honor” said Assemblymember Mike Gipson. “Today, the majority of adults with SCD are forced to obtain care in hospital emergency departments and other non-SCD specialty settings. The Jeffrey Smith Sickle Cell Adult Center will be a center of excellence that understands adult patient’s unique needs and provide them with a quality of life that we would all want for ourselves. Moreover, the comprehensive outpatient center will avoid increased hospitalization costs for a Medi-Cal population.”

The new funding will help create a statewide network of regional adult SCD clinics modeled after the MLK Jr clinic. Developed within the existing health system infrastructures, the network will serve counties where the largest numbers of adults with SCD live, including Los Angeles; San Bernardino and Riverside; Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco; Sacramento and Solano; Kern; Fresno and Madera; and San Diego.

“Sickle cell disease is a complex condition that affects both the physical and mental health of patients, and it is critical that we provide them with first-rate care in the community,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “Since 2016, LA County’s Department of Health Services and the Sickle Cell Disease Foundation have helped adults with sickle cell disease at the Martin Luther King Jr. Outpatient Center in Willowbrook. I’m thrilled to see this model expanded across the State.”

The budget allocation will help fund clinical workforce development to strengthen doctors’ and nurses’ understanding of current care guidelines, expand outreach and education, and increase tracking to better monitor care and outcomes through a partnership with the Sickle Cell Data Collection Program. This funding will improve the following outcomes:

  • African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans are disproportionately impacted, especially in the Los Angeles area where close to 2,000 patients live with SCD.
  • The average life expectancy for people with the most severe form of SCD is 30 years shorter than that of people withough SCD.
  • Patients with SCD have the highest rate of returning to the hospital within 30 days of being discharged compared to other health conditions.
  • The rate of stroke in adults (age 35-64 years) with SCD is three times higher than rates in African Americans of similar age without SCD.
  • The number of physicians trained and willing to treat SCD patients, especially adult patients, is severely limited.

“We are very grateful for this critical funding that will finally help ensure that Californians with Sickle Cell Disease can access the level of medical expertise needed to address the symptoms of their disease so they can live longer, more fulfilling and productive lives.” said Mary Brown, president and CEO of the Sickle Cell Disease Foundation of California.

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About the Center for Inherited Blood Disorders
Center For Inherited Blood Disorders (CIBD) has cared for hundreds of children and adults in Southern California, offering a safety net clinic that provides health care services specifically to patients with inherited blood disorders.  CIBD has been able to increase access to care for those who are economically challenged by providing medical care regardless of ability to pay.

About the Sickle Cell Disease Foundation of California
The mission of the Sickle Cell Disease Foundation of California (SCDF) is to provide life-enhancing education, services and programs for individuals living with sickle cell disease. SCDF broadens public awareness, delivers effective advocacy initiatives and promotes innovative therapies to ultimately find a cure.

About the MLK Jr. Outpatient Center
Serving as a model for accessible, culturally-sensitive healthcare, the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services’ Martin Luther King, Jr. Outpatient Center operates over 70 primary care and specialty care clinics to serve the health care needs of surrounding communities. The state-of-the-art facility is part of a revitalized medical campus which includes a 131-bed community hospital, psychiatric urgent care, recuperative care center, and Center for Public Health.