When confronting the consequences of the pandemic and economic disruption, should we prioritize workshops on “adjusting to the new normal” or commit to creating timely access to medical care and other vital services for survival? Allow me to explain.
While to some this may sound out of reach, our experience is that implementing a countywide system of care that include access to ten vital services for surviving and thriving is entirely possible and worth mobilizing around. Yes, it will take a level of collaboration heretofore unseen with most state, county, city, school, higher ed and nonprofit organizations. And yet, we have the technology to make this collaborative effort entirely transparent and easy to engage, all while tracking progress.
We have an incredible and historic opportunity to rethink government on every level and to re-prioritize. It’s all about collaboration, data and technology. And a shared vision.
What we knew
Pre-COVID-19, there were surveys taken by families that revealed how many people in a county struggled to access five “surviving services” of housing, food, transport, behavioral health care and medical care. We learned that as many as a third of county residents might be struggling to access health care. This is not good news in a pandemic.
Surveys also revealed to what degree parents needed, but could not easily access, the five “thriving services” of parent supports, early childhood learning programs, community schools with school-based medical and mental health care, youth mentors, and job training. Survey respondents told anyone who would read the survey results why services may be hard to access. Barriers to services vary widely, including reasons related to cost, quality of services, meeting guidelines, ease of access, transportation and language issues.
What we need to know
Today, survey results might look different. It all depends which way things go with infection rates and the magical forces that impact the job market. More middle class moms might report concerns about getting in to see a healthcare provider and worry about the local store limiting hours and purchases. Older residents might express concerns about accessing everything if they are told it is prudent public health policy to never leave their homes. As for services like job training, survey takers of high school and college age may wonder what types of formal education will align with the future workforce (as though anyone really knows what the brave new world of jobs looks like).
A really big and bold vision
What we can learn through surveys is how vulnerable we all feel. Trust me, if you don’t feel vulnerable you are not paying attention. To address our collective insecurities, we require a groundbreaking and ambitious vision. We need progress toward a solution to any public health crisis and economic free fall.
There is a vision that is radically simple. Ten services can change how we live, work and care for each other in times both calm and chaotic.
We know the gaps in key services that doom families to costly health challenges. These disparities have been hurting many of our families for decades. Now gaps and potential chasms can impact the majority of the population. We know which ten services can empower families and all community members and have the evidence to prove it. We also know the steps needed to empower state, county and city lawmakers to collaborate and change “business as usual” into a new way of governing and providing for every child and adult in the aftermath of the pandemic.
Big ideas are feasible because you’re reading this article
We know which skills, capacity, relationships and experience are needed to make a local plan for ensuring the services for surviving and thriving a success. We know the budget implications for state, county, city and school budgets and stand by our belief that what we propose saves us money in the long run, in addition to being just plain fair. And save lives.
It’s time to change the trajectory of local government to solve public health problems and economic instability. It’s time to generate robust public and private sector partnership to create a pathway to addressing the root causes of everything we say we want to eradicate. That would be vulnerability to pandemics and economic upheaval. While we are at it, we can also greatly reduce substance misuse, violence, abuse, trauma, school dropout, underemployment and lack of self-sufficiency.
The hydra lacks and fears a bold vision
The three-headed hydra of apathy, envy and fear, sitting in positions of power in your city (and screaming for attention on your mobile), would like you think small. I believe you can do the opposite and develop a proposal that advances a clear, cogent and compelling vision for the future — one where every child is a priority, every parent is healthy, every student is empowered, every entrepreneur is encouraged, every elder is respected, and every community member is well-resourced and inspired to succeed with family life, work life, economic development and community engagement.
Quite simply, if we have the vision and technology to create a society where 100% of us have the resources to learn, work hard and thrive, why on earth would we settle for anything less?
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