Truthout reports on 10 major US cities that are projected to spend more on police than public health in 2021. “Over 1,900 people have died from COVID-19 in Houston, Texas, the U.S.’s most diverse and fourth most populous city. Roughly 1.4 million people (19.7 percent of the city’s population) are without health insurance, and multiple hospitals’ ICUs have been at capacity for months. Yet, the city’s police department budget for 2021 is 10 times greater than the Houston Health Department’s budget, with the police allotted nearly $1 billion and the health department $100 million. While the discrepancy in Houston’s budgeting priorities is particularly dramatic, a Truthout analysis found that all 10 of the U.S.’s largest cities will spend more on policing than public health during Fiscal Year 2021. Combined, these 10 cities’ policing budgets are 3.6 times greater than public health department budgets. Public health departments are generally tasked with aiding vaccine distribution, combating foodborne illnesses, homelessness and environmental toxins, and supporting addiction treatment, among other health-promoting activities.”
In a Sacramento Bee op-ed, PI’s Manal Aboelata and Jim Mangia of St. John’s Well Child and Family Center call out the need for more equitable vaccine distribution and the role trusted community health providers and nonprofits can play: “There is an alternative: investing in vaccine-distribution efforts at community-based organizations and health centers that are best positioned to reach people in the neighborhoods that have been most devastated by the virus. Nonprofit California health centers alone could vaccinate 500,000 patients a week in all the underserved urban and rural areas of the state — yet most still do not have access to the start-up funds and vaccines necessary to put that system into place. Health equity and racial justice leaders in Los Angeles are aiming to get vaccine into people’s arms in communities hardest hit by the pandemic. South Los Angeles is an epicenter of the pandemic in L.A. County and — at the moment — one of the most serious outbreaks in the country, with some of the highest rates of COVID-19 transmission, hospitalization and death. South Los Angeles’ 1.5 million residents — over 90% of whom are Black or Latino — endure community conditions that undermine their health and face significant and longstanding gaps in access to healthcare and health insurance… Investing in the capacity of community-based organizations and health centers is long overdue. This pandemic has shown us that the people and places hardest hit by COVID were the ones that were least connected to health-promoting resources beforehand and most likely to be deprived of community conditions that support healthy lives like stable housing, safe streets, access to healthy food and outdoor spaces for physical activity. It is time to end the starvation cycle for community-based clinics and local organizations in the most impacted communities. The vaccine-distribution strategies we use now can break old patterns of disparity and injustice by placing urgently needed resources where they are needed most. State and county policymakers have an opportunity right now to deploy vaccines and resources to bolster the capacity of community-based organizations already operating in the hardest-hit Black, Latino and Indigenous communities. Doing so is a practical response to this pandemic and will leave us better prepared to meet ongoing health needs into the future.”
The NBC affiliate in Columbus, Ohio, reports on creating openness around mental health challenges in the Black community. “The Life is Better With You Here initiative encourages families, specifically families of color, to find help for mental health. “Mental health is such a stigma in general, but especially in the Black community,” said Keiko Talley with the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation. “It’s really not discussed. It’s almost shut away.” Some of the biggest mistakes include telling children not to think like that, or choosing to fix the problem within the family home. “Letting parents know it’s important not to talk, but to just kind of sit there and listen to your kids,” Talley said. “Let them know that they have this safe environment and that they are loved and that they do matter. Create this safe space for them to come to you and discuss these things.” That was something Godbolt never had, until she went to prison. “I felt like I was the most freest person when I was incarcerated because I didn’t have to be around my family anymore and I didn’t have to be around people who didn’t understand me,” she said. “I was finally able to get help and it was OK for me to get help. I didn’t have anyone judging me about getting the help.” Goldbolt said thousands of women and girls struggle in silence. “To have that community of women come around you when you are that young, and make you feel worthy,” she said. “Life changing.”
Health Affairs published an op-ed by Jason Lacsamana, who works with PI on the Intersections initiative, calling for philanthropists to rethink how they evaluate community grantees in ways that support health equity, racial justice, and innovative approaches. “As we in philanthropy have witnessed the disparate effects that the coronavirus pandemic, its economic fallout, and the national reckoning with police violence and systemic racism have had on communities of color, many funders are putting racial equity at the forefront of their efforts in ways they never have before. I’ve seen us shift our priorities, but I still think we need to do more to transform our processes. That means rethinking the way we evaluate investments that are meant to result in healthy, safe, and equitable communities—and how we ask our grantees to evaluate themselves. Right now, many funders prefer grant applications that propose strategies that can demonstrate success using familiar and readily available metrics. Regrettably, this preference ends up incentivizing applicants to take well-worn—and typically downstream—approaches to our communities’ most intractable problems. But we in philanthropy know that we need upstream, multipronged, multisector, and innovative approaches to uproot entrenched systems that have created inequitable health outcomes and racial injustice and have been in place for generations.”
The House of Representatives is expected to pass President Biden’s $1.9-trillion COVID relief package on Friday. The House version of the relief package includes the minimum-wage hike, $1400 stimulus checks, supplemental unemployment benefits, and increase in the Child Tax Credit, and aid to states for testing and vaccination campaigns. The bill is expected to undergo further revisions, in particular after the Senate parliamentarian ruled that the minimum-wage increase violates budget reconciliation rules. On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed the Equality Act.