November 18, 2018

Achievable Health Center Has the Right Rx for Patients with Developmental Disabilities

Even though there are close to 80,000 children and adults in Los Angeles County who have been formally diagnosed with developmental disabilities (DD) such as autism, intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy and epilepsy, there are very few medical clinics and offices that are have the specialized equipment and trained medical personnel to meet the needs of this growing population, which is expected to grow by 20% in the next two decades. For children with complex health issues and a DD diagnosis, Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles does a great job of serving that population, and there’s some very kind and compassionate pediatricians in LA County who have welcomed children with special needs into their practice, but kids eventually grow up and become adults. And who will take care of their health needs then?

As our own son with DD turned 21, we were gently asked by his kind, long-time pediatrician (who is retiring soon) to seek out new medical care. And we aren’t alone; there’s a huge gap out there in medical care for adults with DD since most doctors received little or no training while in medical school in how to communicate and treat adults with autism and other developmental disabilities. Disability Scoop reported in 2015 that researchers with Kaiser Permanente Northern California polled 922 providers of adult primary care, mental health and obstetrics and gynecology services through the insurer’s network, and found that the vast majority, 77%, self-rated their ability to treat patients on the spectrum as “poor or fair.”

Lucky for us, we are now able to take our son to The Achievable Health Center, housed in the same building as the Westside Regional center in Culver City. Created by the Achievable Foundation, The Center is the first Federally Qualified Health Center California devoted to meeting the health needs of the DD population (and also their family members). All of the staff members are comfortable treating adults with DD. They have the right equipment, such as an adjustable, fully accessible examination table with grab bars on the sides. For people who can’t stand independently on a scale, there’s a special sling contraption that can hoist up a sitting person and accurately get their weight. And an on-site lab can quickly process many blood and urine tests.

But the real difference is in the care and time spent with the patient. With our son, everything takes longer than with a typical adult patient, from moving in and out of rooms, to even a simple check of nose, eyes and ears. If our son feels rushed, he will get upset, and completely refuse to cooperate. Even if he can’t directly answer most of the questions, he still wants to feel part of the conversation, and to be included to the fullest extent possible. I’ve taken my son to some doctors who almost refused to look at him in the eye, preferring to direct all speech and eye contact to my husband or to me. Dr. Mark Benor, the full-time Family Physician at the Achievable Health Center, spoke to our son in a respectable manner, and explained what he was going to do before he touched or checked any body part. And he took all the time needed to ask the right questions and really listened to the answers.

Like any new nonprofit, The Achievable Health Center needs volunteers and community support to fully realize its mission “to improve the quality of life for children and adults living in Los Angeles County who have intellectual and developmental disabilities by providing support and healthcare services, allowing them to live healthy, independent, and productive lives.” You can learn more at www.achievable.org