Kevin Cody

Healthy Living Campus to be downsized, BCHD announces

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The Beach Cities Health District will announced a reduction in the size of its Healthy LIving Campus at its Wednesday, June 17 meeting.

by Tom Bakaly

CEO, Beach Cities Health District

[Editor’s note: The following statement was released by the Beach Cities Health District on Wednesday, June 10, in anticipation of the Beach Cities Health District’s Wednesday June 17 meeting.]

Together /təˈɡeTHər/ adverb 1. Into companionship or close association; “the experience has brought us together” 

Together … I’ve been thinking about that word a lot lately. The COVID-19 pandemic and recent civil unrest have heightened the concept of “together” and it has been a struggle this year. But in fact, “together,” as a community is really where we thrive. 

Through the years in the Beach Cities, we’ve seen the most success when we worked together. In 1955, the three Beach Cities of Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach came together and voted to form Beach Cities Health District (BCHD) and build the South Bay Hospital on Prospect Avenue in Redondo. Back then, coming out of World War II, there was a health need for rural hospitals. 

When private hospitals in the South Bay boomed, we came together (not without tension) in the late 1990s to end our acute care services and shift BCHD’s resources, programs and services to focus on serving the community through preventive health. We pioneered a childhood obesity prevention program in 2007 with the Redondo Beach Unified School District and thousands of parent docents. In 2010 we established a community-wide well-being initiative called Blue Zones Project. A few years later we received a visit by the U.S. Surgeon General, who was drawn by our success with childhood obesity prevention and high Well-Being Index scores measured by Gallup. Today, we have over 40 programs serving the health needs of the South Bay, and we are funded by property taxes (25 percent), fees (18 percent), rent from businesses (32 percent) and other sources, including investments and partnerships (25 percent). 

All these ideas and programs started as a concept and there were plenty of doubters along the way, but it was by working together that we made it happen. Together, the cities of Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach are transformative. Together, this community has completely upended regional health indicators, obliterated smoking rates and slashed youth obesity rates. 

More recently, together, this community was able to flatten the COVID-19 curve in the South Bay. When COVID-19 descended upon us, we came together to shift most of BCHD’s resources to the needs of the South Bay communities and coordinate an interagency response with the cities, school districts and business community. In collaboration with L.A. County, we facilitated testing at the South Bay Galleria, where more than 17,000 tests were conducted. We activated our committed community of over 1,000 volunteers to do wellness checks, deliver food to our vulnerable populations and be health leaders. So impressive were these efforts that they were captured in a national news piece by CNN.com titled, “Here’s who’s really in charge of protecting the public.” 

COVID-19 also reaffirmed what we believe and what we have always known – preventive health is essential to helping people live longer, better lives. About 80 percent of today’s healthcare costs are for treating people with chronic yet preventable diseases. BCHD’s wellness and healthy living programs are aimed at making prevention an integral part of the classrooms, workplace and homes of the Beach Cities. 

It’s proven that together Beach Cities residents find ways to overcome obstacles. For this reason, BCHD has continued to bring the community together to plan for the future. For three years, in a relentless effort to define a project that best serves the community, BCHD has collected more than 1,300 comments during more than 70 meetings regarding the Healthy Living Campus – a community-owned asset at 514 N. Prospect Avenue, at the border of Redondo Beach and Torrance. 

The Goal: To modernize the aging 11-acre Healthy Living Campus in a manner that safeguards our community’s older adults and allows them to age in place, while generating revenue to secure more than 40 community wellness programs that successfully keep residents healthy. 

It hasn’t been easy. We’ve heard from surrounding neighbors of Redondo Beach and an adjacent Torrance neighborhood that they believe this project has too many impacts, is too big, and will take too much time to construct. 

Well, together with the community’s input and involvement in meetings, we worked on it. 

At the upcoming BCHD Board Meeting on June 17, our team will discuss the renewed look at the Healthy Living Campus Master Plan, unveiling a concept with fewer residential care for the elderly units, smaller building sizes, less construction time, and a site design that shifts away from homes compared to previous plans. 

By focusing on a streamlined project that reflects fewer, smaller and less, we can achieve the goals that serve the community, while creating less impact for our nearby neighbors. 

In our emergency planning prior to COVID-19, we identified pandemics, cyberattacks and earthquakes as our biggest threats. One is happening and we must be prepared for the other two dangers. Importantly, our old hospital building is in need of substantial seismic and structural upgrades and changes that must be addressed. 

Let me be clear, given the age and seismic issues related to this campus, doing nothing is not an option. BCHD is wholly owned, operated, financed, and utilized by the residents of Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach, leveraging $1 of property tax dollars to deliver $3.70 worth of wellness programs and services. BCHD buildings are your buildings; BCHD programs are your programs. In the same way residents wouldn’t let a city hall, library, or school fall into disrepair, BCHD assets must also be protected and modernized. It would be fiscally reckless to do anything else. 

And yes, we are using the old model that has been tried and true. By working together as a community – just as we’ve done for 65 years – the Healthy Living Campus started as a concept, we’ve refined that concept with community input, and we’re looking to implement in a manner that will allow us to plan, be prepared, and protect the assets we have to secure our health and safety long into the future. 

Stay Healthy and Safe. ER

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