Who hasn’t been guilty of putting off their biannual trip to the
dentist? Next time you try to dodge your dental hygienist, remember this:
for some families, a trip to the dentist is a luxury. In fact, according to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 19% of children ages 2 to 19 have untreated cavities.
Keeping care accessible to all is important; that’s why Torrance
Memorial Medical Center contributed an estimated economic value of $61
million in community benefits to its South Bay service area in 2013, the
majority of which was attributed to subsidized care for medically indigent
patients and other charity care. While the hospital doesn’t have
the ability to contribute such an amount in sheer cash donations, Torrance
Memorial makes a concerted effort to provide benefits for the broader
community by way of health screenings, community health education, supply
donations and increasing collaboration with other nonprofit agencies that
provide vital services in the community. An example is the
South Bay Children’s Health Center (SBCHC), a 67-year-old Torrance organization that has provided thousands of low-income
and uninsured families with high-quality dental and mental health services.
According to Claire Coignard, Director of Health Education and Outreach
Services for Torrance Memorial, the hospital has been partnering with
SBCHC since 1998. She explains that SBCHC was chosen to receive assistance
because it was clear the organization served “vulnerable populations”
at medical or financial risk due to being uninsured, or underinsured,
or those receiving Medi-Cal or Medicare. Being able to be a part of this
process is one of the best parts of her job, Coignard says, reminding
her that she works within a healing community—one that strives to
help all in need. “It’s one of the reasons I love working
for Torrance Memorial—the values are not just words on a page,” she says.
Today more than ever, SBCHC is critical to our community. Did you know
that the South Bay has more families who qualify as “at-risk for
food insecurity” than any other region in California? According
to Lisa Daggett-Cummings, director of development for SBCHC, “The
South Bay is a region of very sharp contrasts, further complicating equitable
access to mental and oral health services for all families in need.”
For instance, more than 260,000 people in our community live at or below
the poverty line. South Bay families reflect the highest level of food
insecurity in the county, with 37% of the families in the region living
at 300% of the poverty level or below. What that means is that hundreds,
perhaps thousands, of families in the South Bay lack consistent access
to an adequate food supply in order to feed their children—so taking
them to a dentist or therapist is a luxury few can afford and many forgo.
To complicate matters further, 18% of all children of at-risk South Bay
families are living with special needs—the highest percentage in
the county, further challenging access to services, says Daggett-Cummings.
This is where SBCHC steps in, assisting more than 25,000 families a year.
When families can’t afford high-quality dental care, children can
suffer from tooth or gum disease and pain that leads to school absences
and a host of more serious preventable issues.
“Every family in America should be able to afford high-quality dental
care. That’s what we are able provide,” says Christine Byrne,
MFT, SBCHC’s executive director. SBCHC has created a high-quality
dental clinic for the entire family and, Byrne says, all who work there
“are committed to providing care for those who need it most.”
ON THE ROAD TO HEALING
SBCHC began in 1947 solely as a dental clinic to assist the neediest families
but has expanded its services over the years to meet other dire needs
within the community. Since the formation of its Child Guidance Clinic
in 1967, SBCHC has offered affordable mental health services, including
psychotherapy, to children and families struggling with emotional and
The clinic’s team consists of psychologists, psychiatrists, clinical
social workers, and marriage and family therapists. Children, adolescents,
and young adults up to 21 years of age and their families who have Medi-Cal
and meet severity criteria are eligible for assistance.
“Mental health is one of the top health care needs for underserved
families in the South Bay,” says Byrne. “Our Child Guidance
Clinic fills a need for so many local parents in search of affordable,
quality mental health services for their children.
“At our Child Guidance Clinic, our team of specialists sees mental
health and healing as a partnership, and they do everything they can to
make sure their young clients feel safe and supported—they work
together with the entire family. Their families know their children are
on the road to healing.”
CHANGING LIVES, ONE CHILD AT A TIME
In 2008, SBCHC integrated the South Bay Youth Project, formerly run by
the city of Redondo Beach, into its array of services. The program offers
a full range of supportive child- and youth-focused mental health services.
One of the most popular is the Wilderness Program through the Redondo Shores
Continuation School. Every year 10 teens at Redondo Shores are chosen
to participate in a free, 10-week wilderness and leadership group. Each
week these teens work with a therapist and Folcrum Adventures guides to
hone their leadership abilities using rope courses in the Santa Monica
mountains, trust-building exercises, teamwork and listening skills.
The program culminates with a three-days-and-nights camping trip in Joshua
Tree National Park. According to SBCHC staff, many of the kids have not
spent much time in nature nor had the opportunity to build confidence
in their leadership abilities. Clearly, thousands of families in the South
Bay are extremely grateful for the services provided by SBCHC.
For more information about SBCHC or to inquire about donating, please call