In a time when affordable and trusted health care has become more important than ever, 2020 marked a milestone for Valley Community Healthcare (VCH) — 50 years of providing those in and around Toluca Lake with first-class service at a budget-friendly rate. While the pandemic forced the cancellation of festivities, this anniversary is an incredible achievement that shouldn’t go unrecognized.
A nonprofit, federally qualified health center, VCH is located in North Hollywood and North Hills and serves as the medical home for over 26,000 low-income San Fernando Valley residents, regardless of their ability to pay. The facility started from humble beginnings in 1970 by a group of therapists “who wanted to ‘help the hippies,’” says Paula Wilson, president and CEO, but has “expanded its services to create a medical home for the whole family, and is a recognized community leader in providing diagnosis, treatment and counseling to underserved populations.”
VCH’s growth over the years included leading the way in addressing teen pregnancy and reproductive health issues, as well as becoming the first provider of HIV testing services in the San Fernando Valley in 1987. For residents and workers alike who’ve witnessed this progress, the anniversary is a significant triumph. “Fifty years is a special milestone to every business and individual who achieves it,” Wilson says. “It is particularly special to VCH because we started as a small, grassroots, all-volunteer counseling center with a budget of almost $0. Today, we boast a staff of 260 (and growing) with an annual budget of $30 million, operate two medical centers and the Student Health Center at L.A. Valley College and provide a full range of medical and health services, including behavioral health, optometry and dentistry, to those in need.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic took over the country last year, VCH’s resources were immediately put to the test, and an all-hands-on-deck effort was needed to protect the countless residents in need.
“VCH pivoted to provide telehealth care during the pandemic and fought daily on the front lines to provide care and counseling to over 2,000 COVID-19 patients,” Wilson says. “We canceled a year-long series of events to provide COVID-19 care and education to the neediest among us. As a frontline health center, this was not a time to host commemorative parties and celebrations.”
Instead, it’s been an important reminder of the long-lasting impact the health center has had on residents throughout the past half-century.
“For most of the past five decades, most of our patient population could not afford health insurance and had very few options for obtaining health care,” Wilson says. “This resulted in emergency rooms being overwhelmed. The presence of Valley Community Healthcare (or Clinic, as it was then) offered residents a full array of health services and assistance in getting health coverage to help with costs. If the San Fernando Valley is important to you, then you should know that Valley Community Healthcare is vitally important to contract workers, hourly employees and families.”