This September, Kheir Center – based in the heart of Koreatown – will celebrate its 30th anniversary of delivering care to residents across Los Angeles County.
What started as a one-room social service office in 1986, providing basic healthcare to non-English speaking Koreans, has since evolved to so much more. Today, the organization provides comprehensive health care for a diverse population through Community Clinic & Patient Resource services and Adult Day Health Care.
“While we have the unique capacity to serve the Korean community, we provide care for diverse patients all over the county,” said Erin Pak, Kheir’s Chief Executive Officer. “Whether it’s physicals, cancer screenings, mammograms, prenatal care, mental health or group exercise classes, our goal is to give our community the high-quality care they deserve.”
This past year, Kheir additionally opened up offices to provide dental and optometry services, filling another gap in the healthcare system by providing specialty care to their constituency.
To serve their growing county population, Kheir has a staff of about 75 members of varying levels, including physicians, physician assistants, nurses, medical assistants, licensed vocational nurses, front desk and call center support, and a Patient Resource Department. All direct staff is bilingual, enabling providers to make a connection with patients and clearly articulate healthcare needs and results in the patient’s first language.
“Healthcare is already confusing enough when you’re trying to communicate specialty care, prescription needs and lab tests,” said Kirby Van Amburgh, Kheir’s Director of Special Projects. “Having someone to communicate these things in your own language makes a world of difference, and prevents people from falling through the cracks.”
Kheir currently operates the nation’s only two full-time community clinics with the Korean, Spanish and English language capabilities. Care is free, or offered at a minimal fee (depending on capacity to pay), and with the expansion of Medicaid in 2014, the team is now serving more than 10,000 individuals a year.
“Initially, our focus was to bridge the gap for these individuals in need of healthcare, but ultimately our goal is to get people healthy,” said Van Amburgh. “We want to help them overcome their obstacles to get healthier and move beyond treating common ailments like hypertension, diabetes and obesity.”
To grow this mission, Kheir has instituted group sessions to talk about struggles and solutions to change habits and find healthier ways to eat, exercise and live.
“Los Angeles County is one of the most diverse places to live in the world,” said LA County Supervisor Don Knabe. “So to see Kheir continue to grow and evolve over the past few decades and find new, inventive ways to give our community something so fundamental like healthcare is essential. Their commitment to providing care is second to none.”