Avant family center holds official opening ceremony

Wave Staff Report

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — Special Needs Network’s Areva Martin joined Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell and St. John’s Community Health, along with multiple county departments and community members Nov. 15 for the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Jacqueline Avant Children and Family Center.

 Named after the renowned philanthropist and advocate for children and families in South Los Angeles, the center hopes to become a national example for programs assisting at-risk children facing trauma, as well as behavioral and mental health challenges.

Los Angeles County invested $55 million to build the 50,000-square-foot facility located on the campus of Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital.

On the first floor is the county’s Pediatric Hub, already in operation, with plans to serve 4,000 children and teens annually by providing medical and mental health evaluations for those who have been exposed to violence, and primary pediatric care for children in the foster care system. The third floor is under construction with the Augustus F. Hawkins Children’s Mental Health Program and the Pediatric Crisis Stabilization Unit coming soon. 

The second floor, now open to the public, is a collaboration between St. John’s Community Health and Special Needs Network’s Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities, a comprehensive and fully integrated developmental and autism center, the first-of-its-kind to serve Black and brown children in the state.

The Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities is a comprehensive and fully integrated developmental and autism center, marking a transformative milestone and setting a national standard. 

The state-of-the-art facility, led by Special Needs Network founder and CEO Areva Martin, provides a welcoming environment for families with special needs, utilizing natural environment teaching methods. The center is dedicated to addressing disparities by offering a full spectrum of services, including diagnosis, early intervention, therapies and medical care, all within an anti-racist framework.

“We will not let you down,” Martin said. “We will provide the best quality care that this country has seen. We plan to be an inspiration and national model for public private partnerships to demonstrate how health care delivery can be provided to our most vulnerable children.”

Located at 1741 E. 120th St., the center has been operational since April and is dedicated to supporting at-risk children facing trauma, behavioral, and mental health challenges. It is named after philanthropist Jacqueline Avant, a longstanding advocate for children and families in South Los Angeles, who was killed by a burglar in her Trousdale Estate home in December 2021.

“The Jacqueline Avant Children & Family Center in South Los Angeles is a beacon of hope, empowering every child it serves to rise above and reach for the stars,” said Latricia T. Mitchell, president of NAACP Los Angeles. “With unwavering support and care from dedicated volunteers and staff, this center is a vital resource for our community.”