La Maestra Community Health Centers is a Federally Qualified Health Center that provides comprehensive medical, dental, mental health and social services in San Diego’s most culturally diverse and lowest income communities. Its main health center is located in City Heights, a community that is home to more than 90,000 residents, many of whom are refugees and immigrants from over 60 countries. Additional health center locations include the underserved communities of El Cajon, National City and Lemon Grove, where the majority of patients are also refugees and immigrants and need affordable, quality health and social services.
Since its founding, La Maestra has provided culturally and linguistically-appropriate prevention, treatment, and chronic disease management services to more than 113,000 men, women and children through its five primary care medical clinic sites and six dental clinics, mental health offices, optometry clinic, and three school-based medical/dental clinics. Its staff members, many of whom are refugees or immigrants themselves, collectively speak over 20 different languages and dialects and know first-hand the barriers that must be overcome in order to access affordable quality health care. Enabling services, economic and community development
Its staff members, many of whom are refugees or immigrants themselves, collectively speak over 20 different languages and dialects and know first-hand the barriers that must be overcome in order to access affordable quality health care.programs also help improve the overall well-being of patients and their families.
La Maestra (Spanish for “the teacher”) believes that the basis for any social change and effective healthcare outcome is education, so we offer health education classes and information for children, adults and seniors in many languages, at our clinic and throughout the community at public housing and low-income housing sites, schools, community centers and health fairs.
No other San Diego area health center provides such a broad scope of supportive services to meet the total needs of its patients and their families.
La Maestra Community Health Centers began with a a truly grassroots effort. A focus group of 12,000 students attending programs at the La Maestra Amnesty Center, an educational center founded in 1986 that offered services to residents in City Heights to help them gain their permanent residency status and citizenship, identified the need for culturally competent healthcare services. From this early beginning, the first La Maestra Family Clinic began in 1990 to provide new citizens, underserved and uninsured residents with not only basic medical care, but also other services that would support their needs. When the clinic was formed, so was a new and expanded mission – “to provide quality health care and education and improve the overall well-being of the family, bringing the underserved, ethnically diverse communities into the mainstream of our society, through a caring, effective, culturally and linguistically competent manner, respecting the dignity of all patients.”
La Maestra Family Clinic quickly outgrew its converted single-family home, adding services and facilities to meet the identified needs of the community, and became much more than a clinic - La Maestra Community Health Centers added OB/GYN and cancer screening and prevention for women, immunizations, allergy and asthma treatment for children, internal medicine and health education for seniors and their caregivers, oral health care and education, behavioral health, vision care, a laboratory, retail pharmacy, a variety of medical specialties via Telemedicine, and diagnostic medical imaging. Transportation and eligibility assistance in applying for Medi Cal, Healthy Families, and other health and social service programs enable patient access to the care they need. Additional services to help improve the well-being of the patients and their families include a food pantry; job training and placement; financial literacy; a microcredit loan program for women; help finding safe, affordable housing and transitional housing for people in recovery.
The former City Heights location grew from 1 to 14 refurbished residential units that spread over a city block, and evolved into different spaces over time, depending on the community's needs (e.g. pharmacy trailer turned food pantry, driveways becoming play areas or storage).
In 2004, La Maestra opened health centers in El Cajon, in eastern San Diego County, and National City, in the southern region. In 2009 the Lemon Grove health center opened in the Southeastern region.
New City Heights Health Center – Bringing Green into Well-Being
La Maestra is committed to the health and well-being of the individual: employees identify patients’ needs and guide them toward treatment, education, training, and self-sufficiency. This commitment became a framework for designing a new facility, which opened in July 2010. The planning process, which began in 2002, involved staff, Board members, patients and community residents working together to determine best practices from multiple sources, including visiting other clinics and attending green conferences and seminars. La Maestra was already socially responsible, so why not be environmentally responsible? The charge to "bring green into well-being" became the project's guiding principle.
The new 36,440 sq. ft building, located across the street from the old location, features high-performance insulated glass, energy efficient HVAC equipment,
La Maestra was already socially responsible, so why not be environmentally responsible? Roof-mounted photovoltaic panels, aluminum sunshades, sustainably sourced, recycled and regionally extracted or manufactured materials, low or no Volatile Organic Compounds within finish materials (paints, adhesives, caulks, sealants, fabrics), energy-efficient lighting and plenty of natural daylight. La Maestra's environmentally responsible design choices helped it to become one of the first community health centers in the nation to achieve Gold Level LEED certification from the United States Green Building Council.
In 2014, with a federal 330 (h) designation for homeless services, La Maestra opened the Hope Clinic in City Heights, to welcome those struggling with addiction, mental health and other needs including housing. It provides a safe, comfortable environment that links people to comprehensive clinical and supportive services.
Art & Healing
La Maestra is also implemented a “Culture and Healing through Art” initiative, starting at the new green health center, consisting of a permanent collection of high quality artwork commissioned for specific locations inside and outside the Health Center by emerging and established regional artists representing the rich diversity of cultures in the area; opportunities for artists-in-residence; a commercial gallery featuring the work of local artists and artisans; a regular series of performing arts presentations; and art therapy programs. This use of art as an integral aspect of healing and well-being is unprecedented in a private, nonprofit community health center specializing in the underserved, uninsured and working poor.
Health Education - La Maestra believes that the basis for any social change and effective healthcare outcome is education, so we offer health education classes and information for children, adults and seniors in many languages, at our clinic and throughout the community at public housing and low-income housing sites, schools, community centers and health fairs. Our Nutrition program
This use of art as an integral aspect of healing and well-being is unprecedented in a private, nonprofit community health center specializing in the underserved, uninsured and working poor.classes address prevention of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, obesity, and other weight related health issues and teach about healthy eating and exercise. Our Diabetes program provides diabetic patients with tools to improve and better manage their chronic condition, learn to prevent cardiovascular disease and other related diseases, and access medications at little or no cost. Our Breast Cancer Early Detection Program provides multi-lingual access to breast cancer education and diagnostic screening to hundreds of women. La Maestra offers the Comprehensive Perinatal Services Program, where new mothers-to-be receive comprehensive services including prenatal care, oral health education, nutrition services, and psychosocial support.