LOS ANGELES, Nov. 19 Today talk show host, Larry King,turns 75. In conjunction with his birthday -- the Larry King CardiacFoundation, COPE Health Solutions and the LAC+USC Camino de Salud Networkcelebrated the second annual King of Hearts gala in Los Angeles. TheFoundation, which provides cardiac diagnostics and helps pay for treatment, isa direct result of King's own heart trouble. In 1987, King suffered a heartattack, one that led to quintuple-bypass surgery. He decided then, he wrote ina CNN column, to help others with the same needs.
"It forced me to reconsider my lifestyle. And it made me aware ofsomething else: This whole thing cost a bundle of money! I was lucky. I had agreat health plan with CNN. Insurance provided by the company paid for theprocedure. How could someone without insurance or vast wealth afford it? Wherewould they get quality care and treatment?" King wrote.*
Cliff Cabral, a 54 year-old construction worker, never expected to bespeaking at a gala event with King and other celebrities. He knew he had afamily history of heart disease and that he, one day, might suffer the samefate as his father, who died of a heart attack in his early fifties.
"I was well aware that I had some serious risks. I put off having the lifeI wanted. I didn't want to have kids ... I was afraid I would die of a heartattack while they were young. That wasn't something I was going to lethappen." After receiving clinical confirmation of a cardiac condition at 36,Cliff was referred to an LA County-managed program that helps patients pay forthe high costs of cardiac care.
"If I had not found out about the program available through the county, Iwouldn't have had my first pacemaker. I have my third pacemaker now, which Igot through the King Foundation. I didn't have anywhere near enough insuranceor money to pay for it. There are a lot of us who just have to learn to dowithout expensive health care. Some people think there is nothing you can dobut accept that as fact."
"I try to focus on what can I do to be here longer. I have a child on theway, and I want to be able to offer something in return," says Cliff. While hedoes report some pre-gala jitters, he is looking forward to the chance tothank King in person. "I really don't know what else to say to him," he says."Just 'thank you.'"
Cardiac care is just one realm of treatment outside the reach of thecounty's uninsured. For many, any medical care can be difficult to accessoutside the hospital emergency room. Of County's 200,000 emergency room visitseach year, 30-35 percent are considered "non-urgent" cases.
"We're obviously always here to provide care, but we have to make theappropriate levels of care are available," says LAC+USC Health Network CEOPete Delgado. "There's always a need for emergency room care; nobody wouldever dispute that. What we're doing is providing access to clinics for primaryand specialty care in neighborhoods. The Camino de Salud is the response we'vedeveloped to address a critical need. Appropriate care at an appropriate timeis the target."
The LAC+USC Camino de Salud Network
"Meeting this need requires innovation," says Allen Miller, President ofCOPE Health Solutions, the company that manages the LAC+USC Camino de SaludNetwork. "We've found that a network of care, a true continuum of care, is themost effective means of helping patients learn health-maintenance skills. Wework with them on their health needs primarily, but we are also providingsocial and vocational counseling. If someone learns to maintain health but ishomeless or unable to work, all their efforts can come to nothing in the end."
At enrollment in the LAC+USC Camino de Salud Network, patients areassigned a primary health care clinic where they meet with a provider on aregular basis. The clinic offers the patient medical attention, pharmacy andmental health services as well as case management for vocational and socialsecurity services. There are currently over 30 clinic sites throughout LACounty participating in the Network.
Javier received his first treatments for alcohol abuse in the late 1970s.After many attempts, focusing just on treating his alcohol abuse, Javier, now49, is celebrating 18 months of sobriety. He was referred into the LAC+USCCamino de Salud Network Care Management program in 2005.
"Javier was really struggling," says Monica Manrique, his care manager."He had been frequenting the emergency room at LAC+USC Medical Center since1997, and has made more than 40 visits in those eleven years; 11 in 2005alone."
"He's come so far, and worked so hard," says Manrique. "We are to thepoint where I can just give him some basic instructions or information and heis able to take care of the important parts himself. Right now, he's beensober for 18 months and is participating in a vocational rehabilitationprogram."
Javier has been able to obtain and hold down a part-time job, has receivedaccess to free public transportation, is receiving legal aid, and is in theprocess of acquiring housing.
"He is able to advocate on his behalf during a medical visit, be compliantwith his medications, and use community resources appropriately," saysManrique. It's a huge step forward when a patient is in a secure position andcan begin taking the lead in directing his own life."
"The program makes a difference in lives, a real difference," Javier says."I'm still here. A lot of my friends have died along the way, but I've beengiven a way out."
Sergio, a 59-year-old Salvadoran immigrant, has lived in Los Angeles forthe past 18 years. He came to the U.S. after separation from the mother of hischildren; a separation he attributes to his alcohol abuse. "I went down, Ilost my few properties," he says. He was drinking alcohol daily by 1990-half abottle of liquor at the end of his workday. On weekends, he drank a fullbottle. Sergio entered the Network Care Management program nine months ago,and has been sober ever since. "Two people are responsible for my recovery:God and my caseworker," he says. "I just want to make sure other people in thesame boat can get the help I did. There are many people who have no other wayto get care. It's a terrifying position to find yourself in."
SOURCE COPE Health Solutions