New plans for old King Drew Medical Center

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- New plans for the vacant King Drew Medical Center were announced on Eyewitness Newsmakers. The 500,000-square-foot facility will be a new behavioral health center.

Funding of $250 million will come from L.A. County's Department of Health Services. The announcement was made exclusively by Eyewitness Newsmakers guests L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Dr. Elaine Batchlor, CEO of Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital.

The old hospital sits adjacent to the new MLK Community Hospital. Citing a need for mental health services, Ridley-Thomas said the new facility will provide both inpatient and outpatient care for mental health, substance abuse and autism diagnosis. Dr. Batchlor said the new hospital's emergency room is seeing 90,000 patients a year, twice what was anticipated, and many need mental health services.

The guests talked about the impact of the recently announced gift of $15 million from Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and the Weingart Foundation. Money will be used to attract doctors to the South Los Angeles community that needs 1,200 more. A new medical building is also planned. Last year, an affiliated medical group in Compton was formed to provide post-hospital care. When patients were discharged, most had no physician for follow-up.

The new MLK Hospital opened two and a half years ago, much smaller than its predecessor, with 131 acute care beds. The focus of the hospital is expanding preventive care to avoid hospitalization. To encourage wellness and healthy eating, there is now a Wednesday Farmers Market in front of the hospital with fresh produce.
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