Appreciating Mitch Katz for Vision y Compromiso
Mitch Katz is leaving Los Angeles and California and returning to New York City. This is our final moment to say thanks for his extraordinary work in making San Francisco, Los Angeles, and California a far healthier place for all of Los Angeles’ and all our state’s residents.
Mitch has always made coverage and care for the uninsured, his top priority. In fact it has been every single one of his top ten priorities. Mitch helped create Healthy San Francisco and My Health LA; each offered care and coverage for every resident regardless of immigration status. Mitch led the way on implementation of the 2010 waiver that allowed California and Los Angeles to get such a huge jump on the implementation of the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act – over 650,000 covered in Los Angeles alone. In San Francisco and then in Los Angeles, he led the way on Healthy Kids programs that covered all children regardless of immigration status, and he has played such a key role in California’s efforts to cover every child residing in our state. California is a leader in implementing the ACA because of Mitch Katz; it is just that plain and simple. California is making huge progress in caring for every California resident thanks to Mitch Katz, and for that we thank you and honor you. Los Angeles has become a leader in this effort due to your presence here and for that all of us cannot begin to thank you and appreciate you enough.
Mitch has no clue about the depth and breadth of his influence. So let me just tell you a few stories. A number of years ago, I was talking to Mitch about how to bring the mentally ill, how to bring drug addicts and alcoholics into treatment and how to keep them there until they get better and stay better. Just like in the movie the “Graduate”, Mitch replied with one word – “Promotoras”. Then he described how promotoras and community health workers could be used to reach and treat this population. Many, many years, later Maria Lemus came and asked me to join the Vision y Compromiso board; she needed to use only the one word I had learned from Mitch – promotoras – and I was delighted to join. Mitch, you made this happen. I never knew the two of you were long time best buddies from the early days of care for AIDS patients in San Francisco, but now it all makes perfect sense to me.
Yesterday, I was flat on my back in a Kaiser doctor’s office. He was just getting ready to cut into my forehead. I said, “can you at least make it so I’ll look ok to go to a reception tomorrow night for Mitch Katz”. He said “do you know Mitch Katz”, I replied “yes”. So while he was cutting and scraping and stitching me up; he told me about a talk you gave to the doctors over at Kaiser when you first came to LA. You told those doctors about the need to integrate physical health, mental health and substance abuse treatment in Los Angeles County. He was impressed by your insights, more impressed that you got it in the 2015 federal waiver, even more impressed that you got the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to consolidate and integrate the three separate departments, and finally the most impressed of all at how well it is being implemented and executed by your Department. By the time he was finished telling me his story about you; he had finished the operation, and they cleaned me up and bandaged me up and here I am to tell you how very sad I am that you're leaving and how delighted I am to have had a chance to know and work with you for these many years.
Prepared by: Lucien Wulsin