The 13-member Val Verde Advisory Council, with Eugene Taylor as chairman, recommended to Supervisor Ward that Val Verde needed some type of health service. The nearest health service was 14 miles from Val Verde.
Once the county and the advisory council agreed to establish a health care center they began securing funding.
The Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Health Foundation invested $70,000 to convert the annex of Rev. Sam Dixon's church, which was under construction in 1980, into a health facility.
The clinic received the Strong-Brown federal grant of $60,000 annually, which paid for the service of a resident physician, just out of school, who was specializing in family medicine.
The building was not quite finished when Rev. Dixon died.
Kiwanis and Rotary members led a drive for labor and materials to finish the annex. People from all over the Santa Clarita Valley donated their time and materials. On weekends they came with saws and hammers to complete the Sam Dixon Community Center.
It took three years of county rezoning, federal grant applications and a complex arrangement between Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital and Santa Monica Hospital before the clinic opened.
When the Samuel Dixon Family Health Center opened in August 1980 it was operated jointly by Newhall Memorial hospital and Santa Monica Hospital.
Newhall Memorial contributed pharmaceutical materials, utilities, supplies, health education and rent. Santa Monica Hospital staffed the clinic with an administrative director, a resident physician, a community health worker, a general medical supervisor and consultant. They used the center for training their residents.
The community of Val Verde was regarded as an ideal place to train young people in a rural, multiethnic family environment, where primarily low-income families would not otherwise receive health care.
The center was briefly closed in 1990 due to lack of funds after the state cut its budget for health care. The Strong-Brown grant of $68,000 was discontinued and Santa Monica Hospital ended the hospital training program that supplied physicians, who comprised two-thirds of the clinic's support.
The Val Verde Civic Association, faced with losing the health clinic, mounted a community awareness campaign with the assistance of Jo Anne Darcy, deputy to Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich. They obtained a community block grant from the county to re-open the clinic.
In February 1991, during the rededication ceremony, Mrs. Evelyn Dixon, wife of the late Rev. Sam Dixon, cut the ribbon and Supervisor Antonovich gave a special commendation to Michael Gales for outstanding service to the clinic and community.
The Samuel Dixon Family Health Center is a funded agency of United Way and Blue Cross. Kaiser Permanente recognized the Sam Dixon Health Center's effort by awarding its $25,000 "good neighbor" grant to the center. This exemplifies a successful public-private partnership working toward enhancing the lives of the residents of the Santa Clarita Valley.
The clinic served 3,879 patients in 1998 and 4,035 in 1999.
We believe health care is a basic human right without regard to status, race or ability to pay.
Miriam Canty is a charter member of the Samuel Dixon Family Heath Center board of directors.
This story is adapted from the speech she delivered at the grand opening of the health center's
Canyon Country facility on Nov. 17, 2000. [UPDATE: Miriam Canty died Feb. 15, 2001, at age 84.]