|Charlotte can and must do a better job of supporting her most vulnerable communities, write authors Tchernavia Montgomery and Jennifer Roberts.|
Questions have recently arisen over the data used for the famous Harvard/Chetty study, which in 2014 ranked Charlotte 50th out of 50 cities for upward economic mobility.
Some think the numbers may not have been accurate and the upward mobility may not be so bad here.
Really? Are we rearranging the lounge chairs on the Titanic?
Anyone who has worked in health and human services in Mecklenburg County knows full well that living in our area is a challenge for hourly workers, unskilled workers, people of color, people with chronic illnesses , formerly incarcerated persons and recent immigrants. Whether we are 50th or 46th should not change our efforts to improve.
As Executive Director of Care Ring, I know this well. My knowledge of those who struggle is deep. What else are we doing wrong?
Just like the Titanic, our safety net and care systems are designed for some, but not all. As on this ship, disease and death are not fair between classes – the poor fare much worse.
As I celebrate my first anniversary as the first person of color to lead our nearly seven-decade-old organization, I have a deeper appreciation for how fortunate I have been to have been given the opportunity to grow. Twenty years ago, I walked through those same doors, not as a leader, but as a patient. I had lost my job and had no health insurance, but the health care I received at Care Ring was worth far more than the charity rate I paid.
I was treated with dignity and respect, and even then, before the “social determinants of health” were commonly understood, staff recognized my socio-economic challenge and the toll that unemployment had had on my life. As a single parent with no local support system, their interventions for me were timely and essential.
Safety net programs are a necessity for vulnerable families. Today, Care Ring serves approximately 8,000 people in our community who are uninsured or underinsured, and COVID has presented unique challenges.
As a former recipient of government eligibility programs, home visiting services and social housing, I am an example of how safety net programs can and will work when services are well coordinated and targeted. . I personally owe my inspiration to become the social worker I am today to the services I received through a maternal and child health and teen parenting support program.
This program, like the Care Ring nurse-family partnership, taught me about my child’s health, but also provided the social-emotional support I myself needed to be an effective parent. At the impressionable age of 15, I felt empowered by these holistic reinforcers, strengthening my sense of myself and igniting the initial flame that would catapult my journey to where I am today.
Forced resilience used to survive adversity is a symptom of a broken system, but necessary for those living in poverty. Better integration of support systems equals increased access. I was lucky to have found Care Ring, but I keep asking, how can we make sure everyone finds the support network they need?
In our community, individual and corporate donations (those of time, talent, and/or treasure) are not simply investments in organizations, they are investments in our families – who generationally benefit from healthier and healthier lives. happy.
Charlotte is a community of wealth, rich not just in dollars but also in spirit and intent. The continued strengthening of our safety net system is vital to our ability to improve economic mobility for all. Increasing funding opportunities, generating targeted capacity building initiatives and protecting our dedicated staff are all ways to achieve this goal.
We can focus our combined strengths on developing an integrated plan for success that is both measurable and validated by those who do the work every day. As Executive Director of Care Ring, I’ll be the first to admit that we service providers don’t have all the answers. But we come closer by leaning in, deliberately building trust with those we serve. I am not the leader I am today because of my upbringing. I am the leader that I am today thanks to my experience.
As our community embarks on our ongoing journey towards a healthier and more equitable future, we ask if we are simply rearranging the chairs on a ship with seating for some, or are we committed to building a new ship with a place for all ?
Jennifer Roberts is the former Mayor of Charlotte and former Mecklenburg County Commissioner. Tchernavia Montgomery is executive director of Care Ring, a nonprofit organization that provides health care services to the uninsured and underinsured.