A Journey From Institution to Community

By Mivic Hirose R.N, M.S., C.N.S.
Executive Director, Laguna Honda

Laguna Honda is an organization on the threshold of the future. A civic icon that began life as a place of refuge for one of the first generations of San Franciscans, the Gold Rush pioneers, it is intimately connected with the story of San Francisco itself.

For nearly two centuries, the city has defined itself as a place of innovation where human possibility could flourish. Laguna Honda, too, has reinvented itself over the century and a half since its founding consistent with the social service practices of the day.

When Laguna Honda’s Spanish Revival buildings were constructed eighty years ago, it was Florence Nightingale-style open wards that were the accepted model for nursing homes. Today, the imperative is for environments that build community and offer opportunities for integration into the surrounding civic life.

Leading models of care emphasize meaning, worth and dignity as the essential elements of human health. Companionship, independence, the freedom to make one’s own choices, and interaction with nature have become the new clinical interventions.

With 780 residents, the new Laguna Honda will be among the largest skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers in the country, representing one of the most extensive commitments of any city or county to long term care for a safety net population.

How can we as a city long concerned with caring for those in need once again reinvent Laguna Honda so that it will embody the principles of community living that comprise the new model of long term health care?

Our commitment, reflected in our 2009-2010 strategic goals, is to take the crucial next steps on a journey from institution to community. By providing programs and services that maximize independence, promote choice and integrate residents into the larger community, we aspire to become a center of excellence in long term care and rehabilitation.

In June of 2010, we dedicated the most modern skilled nursing and rehabilitation center in the country. Our new buildings are finished, but our work has only just begun. The new Laguna Honda will require a continual re-dedication – to community, to innovation, and to a shared vision of a skilled nursing facility that embraces quality of life as its guiding principle.

There is something to be said for thresholds, which, after all, are those places between the past and the future. They give us the freedom to become new again, something that San Francisco has known for generations. Our name, Laguna Honda, means “deep lagoon.” Those of us who live or work at Laguna Honda, and have participated in the remarkable transformations that take place here, have a reverence for the depth of its possibilities.