Letter: Racism Is A Public Health Problem. Support The Ongoing Work Of The CSWG To Promote Racial Equity In Our Town

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The following letter was sent to the Amherst Town Council and Town Manager on June 20, 2021

Kudos to all in our Town Government who helped our Juneteeth Celebration happen. What a wonderful day — from the Tribute to the Soldiers in West Cemetery to the Sunset Reception in the Mill District!  What a celebration!  What a great way to honor the Thompson, Roberts and Bridges families!  What an amazing launch “to empower our youth, inspire our peers and serve as a record for future generations!”   What a town!

Let’s keep this momentum alive and moving forward.  As a public health nurse, I have several suggestions for your consideration. These suggestions come from two public health initiatives of the American Public Health Association (APHA) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Both organizations identify racism as a public health issue.  The APHA declared High School Drop-out as a Public Health issue in 2018.  Since 2012, the Public Health Nursing Section of the APHA has sponsored pre-conference and conference workshops and research presentations on racism and health at the APHA annual conferences.

We need to follow the APHA and the CDC’s initiatives.  Rochelle Walensky, Director of CDC, on April 8, 2021 recommended “ making new and expanded investments in racial and ethnic minority communities, establishing a durable infrastructure that will provide the foundation and resources to address disparities related to COVID-19 and other health conditions.”  Here in Amherst we, with your support, have started this with the establishment of the Community Safety Working Group (CWSG).  We must continue this work!!!  I support continuing the CWSG and enacting their recommendations.  I believe their six recommendations are valuable to all town residents.  I heartedly believe that the Youth Empowerment Center will be a step to increase high school graduation for our  BIPOC teens.

I am aware that funding for these recommendations are costly.  I have a funding source for you to consider.  This source is related to reimbursements for the COVID-19 vaccinations provided through our town’s  COVID-19 Vaccine Administration Program.  As of March 15, 2021 the Medicare reimbursement rate for administering the vaccine was set at $40 per dose.  Other insurers followed this reimbursement rate.  I know that there may be adjustments for billing costs under ICD-10 codes and that we administered vaccines to individuals without insurance.  However, Amherst will be receiving some funds from Medicare and other insurance programs.  A hard working team of staff of the Health Department, Fire Department, Police Department and numerous volunteers made the COVID-19 vaccination program happen.  I urge you to continue supporting collaboration and team building.  A noble way to do this is by continuing the work of the CWSG committee and adequately funding their recommendations.

Nancy Gilbert is a resident of Amherst

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