Everyone deserves the care and resources we need to live healthy lives, and to make the most of our time alive. Being Black or Brown, or low-income, or living in East Greensboro or South High Point shouldn’t mean that you live a shorter life, or are more likely to get sick. Being mentally ill shouldn’t make you more likely to go to prison. We must prioritize transparent and accessible solutions that take care of people’s basic needs on the local, statewide, and national level. Expanding health care access for the uninsured and access to Medicaid can ensure we take care of our most vulnerable people. Empowering independent Behavioral Response Teams to work with community members in crisis and being intentional with the ways we ensure Guilford residents are healthy, safe, and have the materials needed to survive is how we build a healthy Guilford County.
WHAT OUR NEIGHBORS TOLD US
“…mental health, people are suffering mentally- especially with the pandemic going on for a year now, and it’s really serious. A lot of people need to be out doing outreach, but a lot of people are skeptical now because of COVID. It’s difficult- a difficult time for people to do things like that- because everyone is trying to be distanced. You got to be distanced, so it’s hard to reach people- a lot of people are afraid of this virus. You can be safe all you want to, but it’s a very very sketchy time right now. You just got to do the best you can and be as safe as you can, but nothing’s promised.”
“This is the first time we’ve had this. We had the swine flu and these other things, but we didn’t have to wear masks and have curfews and you can’t go to certain places. I know a homeless lady who they call an essential worker- when they’re hungry, after work, the places to eat are closed, and they won’t let them come in to take a shower anywhere. We go to church on Zoom. Some of them are on facebook live! That’s about the only conversation you get.”
AT THE STATE LEVEL
- The General Assembly should expand Medicaid and increase funding for elder care initiatives (dental, vision, Alzheimer’s/dementia care, and long term care support) and substance abuse treatment.
- The Governor should direct the state Department of Health and Human Services to use the extra funds provided for Medicaid Home and Community Based Services in the American Rescue Plan Act to better support elderly people, HIV Positive people, and adults with physical disabilities, and pay their family caregivers to take care of them. These people are currently excluded in their Medicaid Home and Community Based Service Program, and they shouldn’t be. The state should:
- Create Home and Community Based Service programs for the elderly, HIV positive, and physically disabled
- Abolish or raise the asset limit (as several other states including Arizona, South Carolina, and Arkansas) have done so that seniors do not have to give up all assets over $2,000.
- Allow self-directed care plans under which relatives can be compensated for their services as is done in 30 other states.
- At the state level, our elected leaders should address systemic racism in health care which leads to poorer health outcomes for Black & Brown women (maternal care), including lack of Black and Brown doctors and nurses. Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women, and Black women with at least a college degree are five times more likely to die than white women with a similar level of education.
- Concretely, our elected officials should addressing Black Maternal Mortality by covering doulas – trained companions and professionals who provide support and guidance to mothers and families during pregnancy- through North Carolina’s Medicaid State Plan as written in Senate Bill 732. Doulas are trained companions who advocate for mothers. Expanding access to insurance coverage will help with early prenatal care.
- The Public Health Department through their initiative to address maternal mortality, should work to ensure that all people giving birth can have their choice of doula attending their birth and to have two support people, even under COVID-19 safety policies. Duke Regional, UNC Rex Hospital, and Atrium Health allow two supporters for laboring people.
AT THE LOCAL LEVEL
Provide Local Support for Uninsured Residents
- Our elected leaders should increase funding for the Guilford Community Care Network Orange Card program, which gives uninsured applicants access to healthcare and healthy foods, to expand it for all low-income and non-medicaid covered individuals. Cover doulas through the program to reduce the rates of Black maternal mortality.
- Our elected leaders should ensure that there are enough navigators to help eligible people enroll in the ACA (Obamacare). We need to leverage county, state and federal funding for this, including applying for federal grants.
- The Guilford County Health Department should hire and train local interpreters from refugee communities to help Guilford County residents on medical visits.
- Our elected leaders should create a fully resourced Behavioral Health Crisis Mobile Response program that addresses mental health crises, is accessible to anyone experiencing or observing a mental health crisis, is staffed with trained de-escalators, is separate from the police, and adapts the CAHOOTS model to Guilford County needs as laid out in the Behavior Health Crisis Mobile Response Team Act.
- Our elected officials should increase funding for mental health programs and expand access to existing programs, including outpatient resources, collaborative substance abuse treatment centers, and mental health awareness campaigns.
- Our elected leaders should make sure that our local law enforcement agencies do not give people in mental health crises arrest records or charges for nonviolent crimes.
Infrastructure for the Pandemic
- Our elected officials should take COVID-19 seriously. This looks like supporting infrastructure to get COVID vaccines to marginalized communities and protect against future outbreaks, continued support for a task force that can help Guilford County prepare for future pandemics, and are willing to follow and cooperate with state/local public health/CDC guidelines for pandemics and will leverage state and federal grants, and collaborate with nursing schools and hospitals.
- Our elected leaders should ensure that vaccine distribution is streamlined for easy access to COVID-19 vaccines. Additionally, our county public health department should continue raising awareness about the vaccines, possibly through PSA collaboration with local groups, to promote vaccine series; offer mobile vaccine distribution and COVID-19 testing; and increase our county’s testing capacity and contact tracing efforts.
TRANSGENDER HEALTH AND WELLNESS
Transgender, gender nonbinary, gender fluid, or genderqueer, androgynous, agender, gender neutral, and gender nonconforming people deserve autonomy on how they care for themselves. This is a matter of healthcare, safety and dignity.
We need elected officials who will:
- Advocate for education, funding and support for clinics that provide therapy, family support, doctors and hormonal treatments for all who choose, no matter the age.
- Advocate to fully fund Planned Parenthood Transition Program, and advocate that Insurance companies include Transition medical needs, including therapy, doctors, appointments and pharmaceuticals.
- Further sensitivity training and education of teachers and staff in the school systems.
- Fight any legislation that takes choices, voices, or the civil rights of any in the trans community.
- Advocate for safe environments for the transgender community, and dismantle any discrimination in healthcare, employment, housing, or interaction with emergency services (police/EMT). This includes in the classroom.
- Fight for trans people who are processed into the criminal justice system, mental health system, foster care/group home or any other systems to be protected and treated as the gender they identify with. Advocate for protection, medical treatment, and gender recognition. Safety must always be of the highest priority.