Mending poverty-stricken women of the San Fernando Valley

 MEND,  a multi-service nonprofit located in Pacoima, offers a free women’s clinic twice a month for those in low-income cities in the San Fernando Valley

Women's Clinic at MEND/ Photo by: Virginia Isaad


Nestled in the heart of Pacoima, amid auto shops and taquerias (taco shops) is the San Fernando Valley’s sole multi-service non-profit center, Meet Each Need with Dignity (MEND).  Services range from educational to medical for residents of neighboring cities including Arleta, Sylmar, Lake View Terrace, San Fernando, North Hills, and Mission Hills.

Ed and Carolyn Rose along with three parishes located in Pacoima and North Hills began collecting clothing and furniture for the poverty stricken in the area. Initially working out of their garage, it officially became a non-profit organization in 1971.“We are the only agency that has so many unique services under one roof,” said Carolyn Rose.

[audio:|titles=Carolyn Rose talks about the history of MEND ] Click to hear Carolyn Rose talk about the history of MEND

Norma Ortiz, Intake Department Coordinator, said, “MEND helps 30,000 families a month, making sure they have a meal everyday and obviously clothing.”

One of the check-up rooms at the clinic/ Photo by: Virginia Isaad

In 2000, they opened a women’s screening clinic run on a volunteer basis with Dr. Arthur Flesher II as the sole gynecologist along with Carolyn Rose, licensed vocational nurse (LVN), as the sole nurse and an interpreter in addition to volunteer receptionists. The women’s clinic is available two Tuesdays a month and typically sees about 6-8 patients, according to Andrea Banuelos, medical clinic assistant manager.

“We are always in need of volunteers and money especially now because of the economy, more and more people need the services” said Dr. Flesher.  “[MEND] is a great service but it would be nice to expand it.”

According to 2010 statistics from the Center for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC), at 38 percent, the number of uninsured Hispanic women was much higher than that of non-Hispanic White or non-Hispanic Black women. “A lot of people are coming here that didn’t have to come before because of the economy,” said Rose.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services noted, Hispanics have the highest uninsured rates of any racial group with 31 percent of the Hispanic population versus 12 percent of non-Hispanic white in 2010.

MEND Co-founders Ed and Carolyn Rose/ Photo by: Virginia Isaad

Healthyway LA, an organization that also provides free health care, is another option yet the caveat is all clients must be legal residents.

“We do not ask for proof of residency to receive care in MEND ,” said Banuelos. “It plays a huge role with diabetic patients with medication who don’t qualify for subsidies; here they get the medication at no cost.”

The organization does not depend on government funding but rather donations and grants which allows them to use the money “wisely,” according to Rose. The clinic provides basic services including PAP smears, blood tests, referrals for mammograms and pregnancy tests.

There is no obstetrician available so they refer patients to a Primary Care Provider (PCP) for ultrasounds: “We really could use ultrasound equipment and PAP smear supplies,” said Banuelos.

Patients can also receive pain medication such as extra strength ibuprofen or acetaminophen since stronger painkillers such as Hydrocodone (vicodin) and other DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) medicines are not available.

“We want to provide more than band-aid aid but if we don’t keep their dignity, no matter what we provide, we have failed,” Rose said.

[audio: Rose talks about the clinic and other MEND servicesads/CRoseMEND2.mp3] Click to hear Carolyn Rose talk about the clinic and other MEND services

Rose takes down Miranda's info while Ditman translates/ Photo by: Virginia Isaad

Vertilia Miranda, 29, visited MEND for the second time and expressed her gratitude for their services: “I am very happy, they provide emotional support which is what one also needs,” she said.

Rose seconds those sentiments stating the value of empowering their patients to feel like they can contribute to society. “People are grateful to feel like they are a person, not a statistic,” she said.

The Kaiser Family Foundation report for 2011 shows 75 percent of MEND clients earn less than $10,000 a year and 70 percent are women.

Long time client, Maribel Ramirez, 46, has been visiting MEND for eight years now and visited the women’s clinic due to abdominal pains since the $600 in regular medical fees too exorbitant for her.

“They treat us well and it’s a good service,” she said. “They are friendly and make me feel confident about talking about what ails me.”

Dr. Flesher/ Photo by: Virginia Isaad

With 91 percent of their clientele being Latino/Hispanic, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a majority of the women visiting the clinic only speak Spanish so MEND joined with PALS for Health, an organization that connects interpreters with non-profits.

Elisa Ditman has been working for the women’s clinic since 2010 and is one of two interpreters that work regularly with the clinic.

“It’s a blessing to have an institution that cares for the people in need and provides care for women that would otherwise forgo treatment due to costs,” said Ditman.

Before collaborating with PALS, they relied on volunteers in order to bridge the communication barrier that allows the clients to feel comfortable in such a personal setting.

“People are comfortable speaking in their own language,” said Rose. “It has made the clinic better.”

While patients are not expected to pay, MEND does ask for a $10 donation though no patient is denied if they are unable to donate.

“They help me out with medications and all they ask for is $10, for as poor as we are we always have that much and for such good service, it’s really not enough.” said Miranda. “They gave me more than medical attention, they gave me friendship.”

For more information:

Kaiser Family Foundation 2011 Client Info for MEND

Tags:  free health care MEND nonprofit women's health

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