Westside Family Health Center relocates to former LA Weekly building on Sepulveda Boulevard in Culver City
By Kellie Chudzinski
Founded in Santa Monica, Westside Family Health Center (WFHC) opened a new flagship facility in Culver City on Wednesday, April 1, taking over the former LA Weekly building on Sepulveda Boulevard on a 20-year lease.
“We are deeply thrilled to have accomplished our longtime goal of a new site and look forward to welcoming the community to our beautiful new facility,” Debra A. Farmer, president and CEO of WFHC, said in a statement, which thanked donors, staff and others who made the project happen.
With 12,000 square feet of clinic space, including 24 examination rooms and six consultation rooms, and an additional 12,000 square feet of administrative space, the new location will increase WFHC’s space threefold.
Celia Bernstein, director of development at WFHC, said the increase in space will allow the center to double the 13,000 patients it currently serves over the next five years and triple the number of patient visits. She said that 93% of the center’s patients live “at or below 200%” of the poverty line, and nearly half are uninsured.
“For more than 20 years, WFHC has known that it would need to relocate to a larger space to truly fulfill its mission, and it has been planning for that move for a long time,” Bernstein wrote in a separate statement. “Our new site will serve the same vulnerable families that come from more than 200 zip codes to receive affordable and quality care.”
In the center’s 46-year history it has expanded from a women’s clinic to include prenatal, pediatric, adolescent, behavioral health and family services. With the new facility, WFHC will also offer vision and dental programs to treat patients.
WFHC’s opening comes amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has seen the US become the epicenter of the crisis with over 160,000 cases, the most globally, and over 3,000 deaths.
Los Angeles has been in a state of lockdown for nearly two weeks, with all non-essential businesses and public parks and beaches forced to close, residents asked to stay home and practice social distancing with six feet between others.
As of Tuesday, the L.A. County Department of Public Health reported 3,011 cases of COVID-19 and 54 deaths.
The staff at WFHC increased staff size to 60, but with the COVID-19 crisis they will delay adding to the team to “ensure that our staff continues to be paid and we are retraining and repurposing our team as needed in response to this crisis,” Bernstein said, though she added that the center expects to nearly double staff size as it reaches full capacity.
WFHC will continue to treat patients during the crisis and assist those who present symptoms with phone consultations. They will not allow symptomatic patients into the building, but will assist in next steps, including self-isolating, monitoring temperatures and when to be referred to other healthcare sources.
Though Bernstein said the center does not yet have access to COVID-19 tests and is unsure of when or if that will change, as a national shortage of tests continues across the country, the center is looking into pinprick antibody testing as an alternative.
“Community health centers, such as Westside Family Health Center, are really the first line of defense in health care and this is true not just during a pandemic,” Bernstein says. “We help our patients navigate their healthcare and this crisis with their health needs.”
With the opening, the center’s Venice location and both locations on Ocean Park Boulevard in Santa Monica will close on July 1, though it will continue to operate at Santa Monica College and through its Mobile Medical Unit after “Safer at Home” COVID-19 measures are lifted.