Venice Family Clinic and South Bay Family Health Care merger brings equity and access to more people

The combined services include 17 clinical sites and 2 mobile units.

On Nov. 1, the Venice Family Clinic, which has partnered with UCLA Health and its physicians since its inception in the 1970s, and South Bay Family Health Care merged to expand their combined services to 17 clinical sites with two mobile units.

“This is an exciting time for us because we’re combining our expertise in a number of areas, including health care for people who are unhoused with our Street Medicine Program and our mobile units,” says Elizabeth Benson Forer, MSW, MPH, chief executive officer and executive director of Venice Family Clinic.

The Street Medicine Program provides primary care, psychiatry and substance use treatment to people who are unhoused. An interdisciplinary team of medical providers and social workers also helps patients with housing and material resources such as food and shelter.

“We’re looking to expand this program into the South Bay to work with other clinics that already are providing homeless health care services in that area,” Forer says. “There are many people without housing, who live on the street every day, and who do not have access to health care. All of us are excited about the opportunity to provide primary care locations for folks in the South Bay.”

For the past nine months, Venice Family Clinic teams have provided care at St. Margaret’s Center in Inglewood. Forer says there is much to learn about the community, and staff are eager for training.

The combined services also will include a group prenatal program, Centering Pregnancy, that enables pregnant people to connect on a more intimate basis with each other and with their health care providers. There also will be the Children First Early Head Start Program, for children from birth to 3 years old. The program helps parents learn about their child’s needs at each stage of development, strengthens family bonds, provides access to free and affordable care and offers referrals to community resources to meet their basic needs.

There are currently more than 376 low-income families enrolled in the Early Head Start program at two locations, and there are plans to add another Early Head Start center in Inglewood, with additional expansion possible in the future, Forer says.

Other expanded programs include substance use and mental health services.

Much of the patient population at Venice Family Clinic live below the federal poverty line (64%), and about 74% of patients at the South Bay Family Care Center live below the poverty line and are uninsured. Together, the merger will reduce barriers to care by offering health-insurance enrollment, case management and telehealth options.

Venice Family Clinic partners with UCLA Health through an affiliation agreement that provides administrative and clinical support to the Clinic. UCLA faculty and staff volunteers are an integral part of Venice Family Clinic, with approximately 150 UCLA residents and faculty members in primary care fields providing more than 4,700 volunteer hours. Additionally, the Clinic serves as an important training center for 44 UCLA programs, including medicine, mental health, social work, pharmacy, public health and administration, and integrative medicine. More than 200 medical and undergraduate students also volunteer their time.

“By merging, we will advance our shared mission of providing high-quality health care to people regardless of their ability to pay, insurance or immigration status,” says Jann Hamilton Lee, MHA, president and CEO of South Bay Family Health Care. “Most importantly, we will be able to do more together for our patients than the two organizations could do separately, and that is what makes this merger so exciting.”

The organizations, which are long-time allies and anchors within their communities, will continue under the name of Venice Family Clinic. Forer will lead the merged organization, and Hamilton Lee will serve as senior executive.

Learn more about the merger here.