To say 2020 was a different kind of year is a vast understatement. With just a few days’ notice our staff went entirely remote and produced more reports, crunched more data, and generated more analysis than ever. We thought it was important to get the facts out about the pandemic, its impact on the health and human services sector, and policy issues that weren’t related to the pandemic but were still important. Our work was widely shared, used by funders, covered by local, state and national media, and utilized by government at all levels to make important changes to how programs and services are delivered.
Producing a “favorites” list is a dangerous undertaking
You will see several themes reflected in our work this year. We covered important public hearings and meetings that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. Our work frequently touched on the two pandemics facing our country; COVID-19 and racism; often exploring how often these issues were intertwined. We explored how vital programs like Medicaid and SNAP could be made more accessible and responsive to those who need them. Finally, we regularly examined how public funds intended to support health and human services were distributed and spent; providing an extra level of oversight.
As I have said before, producing a “favorites” list is a dangerous undertaking, but I am going to plunge right in and hope you’ll let me know what your favorite Community Solutions publications were in 2020.
Keep wearing those masks, socially distance, washing your hands, and have faith that we can make it through this pandemic if we do these things. Finally remember to practice kindness and take the time to provide comfort to those who have lost a loved one and or who are having trouble coping with all the challenges this pandemic creates. In this way we can hasten our recovery from this horrible experience and emerge a more unified community.
Social isolation: A quiet social determinant of health
Even before the pandemic resulted in thousands of elderly Ohioans being confined to their rooms, skilled nursing homes or apartments in assisted living communities, Emily Muttillo explored how isolation and loneliness produce a host of negative health consequences. Read more here.
Calling out systemic racial disparities and responding to inequality: What will our legacy be?
Will Tarter, Jr., in a deeply personal essay, wrote about the inspiration he takes from his grandfather Dr. Ulysses S. Tarter who was a 1908 graduate of Meharry Medical College, the first medical school for African-Americans in the South. He reminded us that the fight for justice isn’t over and challenged all of us to think about the ways in which we can “individually, and collectively, raise awareness and work to fight systemic oppression and racism.” Read more here.
Ohio needs emergency health & human services coronavirus policy changes
Just three days after the state largely shut down in March, Community Solutions issued a sweeping list of policy recommendations to streamline public programs. I said, “unless we take extraordinary steps, lives will be lost, and the health and human services sector and those it serves will be permanently damaged and may never recover.” Many policymakers used our recommendations as a roadmap and put many of them into effect. Ensuring help got to those who needed it and reduced avenues for the virus to be transmitted. Read more here.
Flatten the curve, raise the bar: The role of telehealth in the pandemic
Almost overnight the use of telehealth to deliver health care services exploded. Loren Anthes took a deeper look into how telehealth could help flatten the COVID-19 curve. But at the same time, he said the state should address the fact that many rural and urban Ohioans have no access to reliable, affordable broadband which risks greater health disparities. Learn more here.
Pandemic-EBT: What it would provide for Ohio’s school children
Just 12 days after the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed, Rachel Cahill drew attention to a provision Ohio could implement that would provide emergency food aid to the families of 850,000+ Ohio children who no longer received free or reduced breakfast and lunch at school. Ohio ultimately implemented the program, providing more than $250 million to reduce childhood hunger in the state. Learn more here.
Coronavirus and child welfare
Hope Lane authored several pieces this year on the impact of coronavirus on low-income families and children; particularly on Black families. In this piece she wrote about a child welfare system already overwhelmed prior to the pandemic, and explored challenges endured by families struggling to reunite or stay together. Learn more here.
How will we count America? Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are more questions than answers.
Kate Warren is our resident census policy expert, and, in this piece, she explored the challenges in getting a complete count created by the pandemic. In a bit of foreshadowing, she stated, “the further we get from Census Day (April 1, 2020), the harder it is to imagine that a truly accurate count is possible.” Learn more here.
Cuyahoga County Health and Human Services levy passes with flying colors
Community Solutions has always supported the Cuyahoga County Health and Human Services levy and the levy in 2020 was no different. Although some opposed it, we considered the possibility of a levy defeat to be catastrophic amidst the pandemic. In this article Will Tarter describes how voters delivered a 70 percent margin of victory; representing a record level of support for a tax increase. Learn more here.
We must rededicate ourselves to dismantling systemic racism and white supremacy in our community
After the murder of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and too many others at the hands of law enforcement Community Solutions joined the Greater Cleveland community and the world in mourning their deaths and pledging to do our part to dismantle systematic racism and white supremacy in our community. Learn more here.
The impact of policing on Black mental health
Taneisha Fair, one of our newest staffers, wrote of two public health crises affecting our country: COVID-19 and racism, both of which disproportionately impact Black Americans. She used a City Club of Cleveland forum to amplify some of the obstacles the Black community faces in obtaining mental health services. Learn more here.
Are you okay? Caring for the caregiver
Eboney Thornton wrote about the extra burden placed on caregivers during the pandemic. She reminded us that caring for another person involves caring for yourself first, a concept that many may understand, but struggle to put into practice. Learn more here.
Ohio working families face benefit cliffs and plateaus
Emily Campbell has become a national expert on poverty and the benefit cliffs families face as their earnings rise. In this report she explores how for some working families, getting a raise actually makes their financial situations worse. Learn more here.
Prioritize Customer Needs in Ohio Benefits System
Rachel Cahill and Hope Lane wrote about our Ohio Benefits User Experience Study, a joint collaboration between Community Solutions, Northern Ohioans for Budget Legislation Equality, Contact Center and Ethiopian Tewahedo Social Services. The perspectives of Ohioans enrolled in public benefits. We learned that the Ohio Benefits Self-Service Portal is not meeting the needs of survey respondents. We urge administrators view customers as their first and most important stakeholders, and make future investments that are responsive to their needs. Learn more here.
Diversion is the most direct path for better behavioral health care in Cuyahoga County
In March, Tara Britton, Hope Lane and Loren Anthes wrote a comprehensive report about how the creation of Pre-Booking, Crisis Intervention Center in Cuyahoga County could result in better behavioral health care. Just recently Cuyahoga County voted to go ahead with the development of such a center in Cuyahoga County. Learn more here.
Moving from payers to populations: A review of Ohio’s Medicaid managed care bid
Loren Anthes explores how the Ohio Department of Medicaid is using the process of re-procurement of multibillion-dollar Medicaid managed care contracts to overhaul the Medicaid program as whole; placing a greater emphasis on population health and providing relief to health care providers. Learn more here.