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Boys & Girls Club, Children's Hospital Unite to Build Clinic


When Felipe Carrillo, a third-grader from Pio Pico Elementary School, died of an infectious form of bacterial meningitis two years ago, John F. Brewster and the rest of the staff at the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Ana did more than take notice.

They helped pay for his funeral. Now, two years later, they are about to open a pediatric clinic to prevent similar tragedies.

And they're not alone in their effort.

In a unique partnership, the youth group and the Children's Hospital of Orange County have joined to build a 1,400-square-foot facility, which will offer preventive health care, referral services and a Spanish-speaking pediatrician.

The clinic will have five examination rooms, a waiting area and offices.

The Orange County Health Foundation donated $350,000, and PacifiCare pitched in with $200,000. The clinic, at 950 W. Highland Ave., is expected to be completed this summer.

Brewster, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club next door, said that more than 26,000 children live within a mile of the club. Along with the neighborhood's visible poverty, the area has a median household income of about $12,000 a year in the two surrounding census tracts, he said.

Lack of transportation, education and finances are just some of the reasons that keep children from getting the care they need, he said. Many families also fear visiting another clinic several miles away because they must cross into rival gang territory, he said.

In addition, many residents are afraid to seek health care because they are undocumented immigrants. They worry they may be forced to provide information or identification at a clinic.

Brewster said their fears are unfounded.

Services will be free or based on a sliding fee. The only requirement for treatment is that children be accompanied by a parent.

"Our goal is to find them a medical home," said Kathy Krauss, executive director for ambulatory care at CHOC.

"Many people don't realize there's preventive care so we need to get out there and provide some health and wellness education."

Krauss is in charge of CHOC's outreach services, a program that furnishes mobile clinics to visit city schools several times a week. For two years, Krauss has been working closely with the effort to build the clinic.

Two of the major child ailments, she said, are respiratory illness and diabetes--both of which can be greatly alleviated with the proper health care.

Manuel Ballestero knows firsthand what the community's health needs are. He is a teacher at Pio Pico and the advisor to the Comite de Cien Familias, a focus group of 268 families brought together to discuss their most pressing concerns.

"If you're making $5.75 an hour, health care is not a priority," he said. "It's a luxury item. Unless you're super-sick, they don't go. This [clinic] will be a boon to the area."

Ana Beatriz Cholo can be reached at (714) 966-5890.

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