LANCASTER – The Linda Verde Wellness Home held its grand opening Wednesday morning in Lancaster.
“It’s for the people in the neighborhood,” said Elizabeth Brubaker, director of Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization. “They educate people, they have counseling, they have services for people who have just had children…there’s just a ton of services, anything you can imagine.”
Michelle Kiefer, executive director for Antelope Valley Partners for Health, said this is the fifth wellness home in the city, opened in collaboration with High Desert Medical Group, Antelope Valley Partners for Health, Antelope Valley Community Clinic, and Kaiser Permanente.
She said public health three years ago discovered key indicators of health disparities in the Antelope Valley. Residents were found to have the highest health disparities in obesity, heart disease, smoking, cancer, and, overall, a long list of really bad health indicators, Kiefer added.
This is when the healthy people initiative started, she said, which is a program that promotes public health.
“Myself and a few others went to the city council to tell people we need to change our health and change how we’re looking at this,” Kiefer said. “So we did the walk for wellness.”
Mayor R. Rex Parris came up with a plan to bring health directly to the communities, and they chose the most at-risk communities in Lancaster, she said.
“Every single home takes on its own personality,” she said. “They’re all different and they’re all exciting.”
Surveys are taken around the neighborhood that the home will be built in to find out specifically what each community needs, Kiefer said.
“It’s just growing and we really want the community to take it,” she said. “It’s their house.”
Kiefer said that this wellness home will probably have parenting classes and health assessments. She is also working with the schools to find out what they want for the home.
“Some (communities) have more seniors and need more senior services,” Kiefer said. “Some have a lot of children, we can do breastfeeding, support groups and we have an infant massage program that really helps bond the mom and the infant together. We just have a whole list of services and partners who can bring a whole lot of services in.”
Nearly 3,000 people have been served so far in the four wellness homes that have already been opened.
“I can’t tell you how much the neighborhoods have improved because of all these support systems,” Brubaker said. “We get teachers who tell us about the kids improving on their scores in school, and improving on their health and their social skills.”
Brubaker said Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization started buying homes in Lancaster during the economic downturn to bring stability to the neighborhoods.
“It was just part of our comprehensive approach to improving the neighborhoods,” she said. “These homes of wellness act to supply support to the people in the neighborhoods. A lot of them don’t know where to go get help for wellness.”
She added that because Lancaster’s government is involved, there is credence and stability, which motivates others to participate.
Vice Mayor Ron Smith said the wellness home is about more than keeping the community safe.
“Keeping it safe is also the base of keeping it healthy, and so we’ve really partnered with High Desert Medical and other organizations to get these wellness homes,” Smith said. “I think it makes a really great affect on the community.”