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The three-headed hydra of apathy, envy and fear has a gift for you.

The three-headed hydra invites you to sit quietly and do nothing. Pandemics fix themselves.

Your capacity to do something profoundly important in this era of rapid change is within reach, which is why you’re reading this blog. Allow me to explain.

Despite torrents of information, advances in technology and best intentions, we have yet to ensure that all residents have access to the services for surviving and thriving. You don’t have to dig into the data to know how dire things can be for many. We know fixing this predictable and preventable state of affairs is the right thing to do. We know how to do it.

Whether during so-called “normal times” or episodes of crisis and chaos within a pandemic and economic disruption, there are key local services that keep us healthy, safe and resilient.

There is a strategy to all local leaders (your city council and county commissioners who all live near you) for ensuring that the services for surviving and thriving are in place for all residents in your city and county. As I often say, you don’t have to save the nation or world, just your neighborhoods within your county’s borders.

Developing the list for what we call “survival” services became obvious after one crisis. We all require stable shelter, a secure food system, medical care, behavioral health care and transportation to the vital services. All it took was one public health crisis to show us just how important these services are and, equally important, where gaps in these services existed in both urban and rural areas.

Our list of five “thriving” services came together as we took a close look at which ones empower children and parents, giving all family members the resources to succeed in school, job readiness and community life which in turn make them even better prepared to handle crises. These services include parent supports, early childhood learning programs, fully-resourced community school with health clinic, youth mentors and job training.

Talk to any health care provider or first responder and it is clear that our focus on ten vital services could have a significant impact on reducing a host of social challenges, including lack of readiness for a public health crisis and economic free fall.

With robust communities equipped with ten accessible and user-friendly services, we could expect to see everyone with access to medical care so testing for COVID-19 and treatment is timely and effective. We can also expect to see a reduction in every costly public health and education challenge: substance misuse, depression, suicidal ideation, untreated mental health challenges, low school achievement and school dropout, bullying and school violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, low birth weight babies, teen pregnancy, poor nutrition, and lack of job readiness.

We have, awaiting implementation, the recipe for true readiness in times of unexpected challenges and crises. All we need now is you (yes, you the change agent reading Medium) to contact your local elected leaders and offer a public a blueprint for designing local infrastructure — a system of services — that ensures all our families and community members survive and, equally important, thrive.

No more tinkering

If you just want to tinker around the edges with our lives, and yours, in the balance then a bold, data-driven plan of action is not for you. If you are looking for the next social Mars-shot-level initiative designed to fix everything that’s wrong with how the fifty “united” states treats its most vulnerable residents, please keep reading. (By “vulnerable” I mean all of us.)

Let us be very clear. Solving problems related to healthcare access and all the services we require will take courageous efforts in state capital buildings, city halls, county offices, school board meeting rooms, community centers and university presidents’ offices.

We all must recognize that it’s up to each of our fifty states to customize a strategy for ensuring ten vital services. No easy fixes, no miracle app, just one radically simple strategy to implement county-by-county. A process that can be started by you with one email to your mayor and city council members.

100%

Let me end this article by revisiting my favorite percentage: 100%. We’re all in this situation together — and we need to keep working until 100% of us are safe and secure.

Ask any socially-engaged, caring person about the status of this troubled nation and you will most likely learn that, deep in their gut, they know that there’s something very wrong with this country. There is a nagging feeling, especially when you have ample resources and a comfortable life, that — for a country that prides itself on compassion — we are not living in the American culture we were supposed to evolve into. Somehow, we strayed from the ideal symbolized by a huge statue in New York Harbor welcoming the most vulnerable families on the planet. This is made clear every time we have a public health and man-made economic crisis.

Our future depends only on you and the elected leaders who guide states, counties and cities. Is this an easy mission? Far from it. The three-headed hydra of apathy, envy and fear will attempt to block you every step of the way. The hydra hopes when you’re done reading this article you take no action. I hope different.

The future is what we make it. Join the evolution.

Please excuse any typos as I construct an article at 3am on only one cup of Joe. These stories are mine and mine alone. I do not represent any organization here. If one of my illustrations looks like a real human or hydra, that’s total coincidence. Words and images ©Dominic Cappello but share with everyone you know. Any questions? The mission awaits: www.tenvitalservices.org

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