The COVID-19 pandemic is still devastating black communities because our struggle for civil rights is not over. The long-standing effects of poverty, racism and health barriers in black communities have created a box that is simply waiting for the virus to catch fire. As a consultant on substance use disorders at Watts Healthcare, I see that these same conditions are fueling another epidemic ravaging black communities: opioid abuse.
The generation of our grandparents went down in history when they took to the streets during the Watts Rebellion, demanding greater opportunities to live a lifetime with the dignity and respect we deserve. It was at this critical time that Watts Healthcare was born. What began as an effort by volunteers to provide quality care to Watts is now a key element of care in our community, providing primary care, dental, nutritional and behavioral health care to patients of all ages and backgrounds.
Public health centers like Watts Healthcare are uniquely suited to serving blacks, browns, and immigrants from California because they are rooted in our communities. We build trust with the people we serve without condemning or worrying about their ability to pay. Poor and unoccupied people, undocumented Californians, people living with HIV, the elderly, members of the LGBT community and people struggling with addiction are being treated with caution.
But because those we serve lack wealth and political power, the work of public clinics – also known as Federal Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) – such as Watts Healthcare is not treated equally by our healthcare system. Public clinics are severely underfunded. As a result, staff are underpaid, exhausted and exhausted; turnover is common. Many of us have higher education, but earn only above the minimum wage. I often find myself doing the work of two or three people.
Just when our community needed us most, Watts Healthcare was forced to lay off a third of our staff – doctors, medical and dental assistants, case managers and other key health professionals – and close at least three places. At Watts Healthcare, I work at the House of Uhuru, supporting people struggling with substance abuse and children born with chemical addictions. Now with limited staff, only four of us were left to care for patients 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, when members of our team were kept at home with COVID infections. It was a real challenge, but somehow I found the strength to keep going, even when I didn’t think it was possible.
It breaks my heart to know that without more funding, the first drug treatment center in south central Los Angeles – founded in 1969 – could soon close its doors forever, even as another crisis engulfed our community. Deaths from overdoses of synthetic opioids such as fentanyl rose 800 percent among black Americans between 2014 and 2017, and that was before the despair of the COVID-19 pandemic.
That’s why clinic staff, clinic leaders like Watts Healthcare CEO Michael Johnson, and community allies are demanding investment in clinics serving colorful communities. We are partnering with U.S. Senator Bob Herzberg and Assembly member Wendy Carrillo on SB 1014, legislation to invest in community clinic workers who come from the community to serve our community. SB 1014 provides training opportunities and increased salaries and benefits for workers in public clinics so that we can expand the community workforce and the services we provide. This means that FQHCs across the state – whether in urban or rural areas, large or small, or different in the population they serve – may have the necessary funding to improve access to life-saving care.
I continue to fight because I have to share this strength and motivating spirit with my patients, some who are out of prison, dealing with homelessness, some are mothers who have lost their children and are doing everything possible to restore custody of the children. you are. I encourage them and tell them that they deserve health and a full life.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best when he said, “Of all forms of inequality, health inequities are the most shocking and inhumane.” I believe that my patients and our community deserve health and opportunities for a full life. Health justice is affordable and investing in public clinics and switching to SB 1014 is the way we can do it.
Op-Ed – Investing in Community Clinics is a Civil Right for Our Generation – Los Angeles Sentinel | Los Angeles Sentinel Source link Op-Ed – Investing in Community Clinics is a Civil Right for Our Generation – Los Angeles Sentinel | Los Angeles Sentinel