State-of-the-art behavioral health facility proposed for MLK Hospital

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- King Drew Medical Center has been closed for a decade and it's a relic to poor hospital practices.

But with the opening of the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in 2015, the new facility next door to the center has been overwhelmed with patient response in the emergency department. Many of those people have mental health needs.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas unveiled plans for a new state-of-the-art behavioral health center, which will convert the 500,000-square foot old building into an inpatient and outpatient facility.

"Mental health has been so stigmatized for so long. In communities such as that which we focus on in the Watts, Willowbrook area, it has been an underserved environment," he said.

Ridley-Thomas, who did an interview on Eyewitness Newsmakers, said the county's Department of Health Services has $250 million for the project.

In addition to substance abuse treatment, the facility will have an urgent care, autism center and pediatric behavioral health.

"Hospitals across California are struggling with a lack of mental health services. We have a lot of patients in our emergency department with untreated behavioral health problems. We see this as a huge benefit for our community and a huge asset on our campus," said Dr. Elaine Batchlor, CEO of the MLK Jr. Community Hospital.

She also said it is just another step in expanding health care services for a community that has been underserved for far too long.
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