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The King of Hearts Helps Others Follow a Healthy Road

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 19 /PRNewswire/ -- Today talk show host, Larry King, turns 75. In conjunction with his birthday -- the Larry King Cardiac Foundation, COPE Health Solutions and the LAC+USC Camino de Salud Network celebrated the second annual King of Hearts gala in Los Angeles. The Foundation, which provides cardiac diagnostics and helps pay for treatment, is a direct result of King's own heart trouble. In 1987, King suffered a heart attack, one that led to quintuple-bypass surgery. He decided then, he wrote in a CNN column, to help others with the same needs.

"It forced me to reconsider my lifestyle. And it made me aware of something else: This whole thing cost a bundle of money! I was lucky. I had a great health plan with CNN. Insurance provided by the company paid for the procedure. How could someone without insurance or vast wealth afford it? Where would they get quality care and treatment?" King wrote.*

Cliff Cabral

Cliff Cabral, a 54 year-old construction worker, never expected to be speaking at a gala event with King and other celebrities. He knew he had a family history of heart disease and that he, one day, might suffer the same fate as his father, who died of a heart attack in his early fifties.

"I was well aware that I had some serious risks. I put off having the life I wanted. I didn't want to have kids ... I was afraid I would die of a heart attack while they were young. That wasn't something I was going to let happen." After receiving clinical confirmation of a cardiac condition at 36, Cliff was referred to an LA County-managed program that helps patients pay for the high costs of cardiac care.

"If I had not found out about the program available through the county, I wouldn't have had my first pacemaker. I have my third pacemaker now, which I got through the King Foundation. I didn't have anywhere near enough insurance or money to pay for it. There are a lot of us who just have to learn to do without expensive health care. Some people think there is nothing you can do but accept that as fact."

"I try to focus on what can I do to be here longer. I have a child on the way, and I want to be able to offer something in return," says Cliff. While he does report some pre-gala jitters, he is looking forward to the chance to thank King in person. "I really don't know what else to say to him," he says. "Just 'thank you.'"

Cardiac care is just one realm of treatment outside the reach of the county's uninsured. For many, any medical care can be difficult to access outside the hospital emergency room. Of County's 200,000 emergency room visits each year, 30-35 percent are considered "non-urgent" cases.

"We're obviously always here to provide care, but we have to make the appropriate levels of care are available," says LAC+USC Health Network CEO Pete Delgado. "There's always a need for emergency room care; nobody would ever dispute that. What we're doing is providing access to clinics for primary and specialty care in neighborhoods. The Camino de Salud is the response we've developed to address a critical need. Appropriate care at an appropriate time is the target."

The LAC+USC Camino de Salud Network

"Meeting this need requires innovation," says Allen Miller, President of COPE Health Solutions, the company that manages the LAC+USC Camino de Salud Network. "We've found that a network of care, a true continuum of care, is the most effective means of helping patients learn health-maintenance skills. We work with them on their health needs primarily, but we are also providing social and vocational counseling. If someone learns to maintain health but is homeless or unable to work, all their efforts can come to nothing in the end."

At enrollment in the LAC+USC Camino de Salud Network, patients are assigned a primary health care clinic where they meet with a provider on a regular basis. The clinic offers the patient medical attention, pharmacy and mental health services as well as case management for vocational and social security services. There are currently over 30 clinic sites throughout LA County participating in the Network.


Javier received his first treatments for alcohol abuse in the late 1970s. After many attempts, focusing just on treating his alcohol abuse, Javier, now 49, is celebrating 18 months of sobriety. He was referred into the LAC+USC Camino de Salud Network Care Management program in 2005.

"Javier was really struggling," says Monica Manrique, his care manager. "He had been frequenting the emergency room at LAC+USC Medical Center since 1997, and has made more than 40 visits in those eleven years; 11 in 2005 alone."

"He's come so far, and worked so hard," says Manrique. "We are to the point where I can just give him some basic instructions or information and he is able to take care of the important parts himself. Right now, he's been sober for 18 months and is participating in a vocational rehabilitation program."

Javier has been able to obtain and hold down a part-time job, has received access to free public transportation, is receiving legal aid, and is in the process of acquiring housing.

"He is able to advocate on his behalf during a medical visit, be compliant with his medications, and use community resources appropriately," says Manrique. It's a huge step forward when a patient is in a secure position and can begin taking the lead in directing his own life."

"The program makes a difference in lives, a real difference," Javier says. "I'm still here. A lot of my friends have died along the way, but I've been given a way out."


Sergio, a 59-year-old Salvadoran immigrant, has lived in Los Angeles for the past 18 years. He came to the U.S. after separation from the mother of his children; a separation he attributes to his alcohol abuse. "I went down, I lost my few properties," he says. He was drinking alcohol daily by 1990-half a bottle of liquor at the end of his workday. On weekends, he drank a full bottle. Sergio entered the Network Care Management program nine months ago, and has been sober ever since. "Two people are responsible for my recovery: God and my caseworker," he says. "I just want to make sure other people in the same boat can get the help I did. There are many people who have no other way to get care. It's a terrifying position to find yourself in."


SOURCE COPE Health Solutions
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