CERRITOS — County Supervisor Janice Hahn announced the launch of a Mobile Stroke Unit — the first in the western United States — Jan. 8 to cover the county’s southeast region.
The mobile unit is available to respond to stroke-related emergency calls in the cities of Cerritos, Artesia, Bellflower, Lakewood, Paramount, Signal Hill, Hawaiian Gardens, Norwalk, and La Mirada, as well as the unincorporated Whittier area.
The specialized ambulance, equipped with a portable CT scanner that allows medical professionals to diagnose and treat strokes in the field, is designed to eliminate debilitating delays in treatment. The units can save lives and prevent or reduce the long-term brain damage and disability associated with strokes, Hahn said.
Speaking during the unit’s launch at the county fire station in Cerritos, she noted that her late father Kenneth, who served for many years as a county supervisor, “spent the final years of his life living with the debilitating effects of” a stroke.
“It was hard on him and it was hard on my family,” Hahn said. “But it is a story too many families in L.A. County can relate to. It is my hope that this mobile stroke unit will be our first responders’ strongest defense for stroke victims in our communities — preventing paralysis, memory loss, brain damage, and even death.”
The Mobile Stroke Unit is part of a pilot program launched by UCLA Health and funded by both the efforts of the Arlene and Henry Gluck Foundation and the county of Los Angeles. The launch comes six months after the Board of Supervisors passed a motion authored by Hahn to provide $1.5 million to fund and expand the pilot program.
The pilot program by UCLA Health will help experts quantify the degree of improved patient outcomes associated with the Mobile Stroke Unit’s work. The data collected in this area will complement data collected by the same Mobile Stroke Unit in Santa Monica.
The Mobile Stroke Unit will operate for two weeks in Santa Monica and two weeks in the new region on an ongoing basis for the duration of the 30-month pilot program.
Dr. May Nour, who heads the Mobile Stroke Unit program at UCLA Health, is optimistic.
“To be able to take care of stroke patients in the very first minutes after onset, when there is the most brain to save, is our ultimate goal,” she said. “Recovery and quality of life for stroke survivors is of utmost importance. By providing treatment in the most efficient timing, we offer patients the greatest possibility of improved clinical recovery.”
The Southeast region where the Mobile Stroke Unit will operate has one of the county’s highest levels of stroke-related incidents. In the past year, the Los Angeles County Fire Department has responded to 818 stroke-related calls in the nine cities where the unit will operate, with 221 of those calls coming from Cerritos alone.
While the Mobile Stroke Unit operates in the region, it will be parked nightly at Long Beach Medical Center, one of the comprehensive stroke centers in Los Angeles County, where it will be able to restock on life-saving medicine and supplies.
“We’re proud to partner with Supervisor Janice Hahn and UCLA to bring this life-saving initiative to the communities we serve,” says John Bishop, CEO of Long Beach Medical Center. “As one of L.A. County’s Joint Commission Certified Comprehensive Stroke Centers, we treat hundreds of the most complex stroke cases each year. By combining the Mobile Stroke Unit’s rapid delivery of brain-saving medications with our expert care, we can achieve outstanding outcomes for those affected by stroke in our community, together.”
While speculating about the potential success of the pilot program, many speakers expressed hope that the program could be expanded.
“Today marks an exciting first step and I am hopeful that this is just the beginning,” said Supervisor Hahn. “I hope there comes a day when anyone can be treated by a Mobile Stroke Unit — no matter where they live in L.A. County.”