Grassroots. Trusted. Nimble. Read Margie Schaps’s Opening Remarks from the 2018 HMPRG Awards - Health & Medicine Policy Research Group

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Grassroots. Trusted. Nimble. Read Margie Schaps’s Opening Remarks from the 2018 HMPRG Awards

November 1, 2018 Written By: Health & Medicine Policy Research Group (HMPRG)

Many thanks to all those who attended the 2018 HMPRG Awards Gala on Oct. 19th at the Chicago Cultural Center. We’re pleased to share our Executive Director Margie Schaps’s remarks from the event.

Good evening everybody and thank you so very much for being here to honor the great accomplishments of tonight’s awardees and the work of Health and Medicine. I want to thank the board, honorary chairs, host committee, and all those who made this event possible.

To say it’s been a hard year for all of us would be a gross understatement. At the national, state and local level we have all been outraged by the hostility to those most impacted by discrimination and growing income inequality. We’ve seen inadequate attention paid to policies that will strengthen, rather than undermine, the bedrock institutions of our society. From attacks on immigrants, to a state with soaring unpaid bills, to the silencing of aggrieved women, I cannot recall a period of time so challenging, so frustrating and yet so needing boundless commitment. At Health and Medicine we take these attacks and turn them into opportunities to advance health equity and social justice, through research, policy, collaborations, public testimony and more. I’d like to give you just a few examples of how we’ve made a difference.

This year, our Schweitzer program, health equity program and Area Health Education Center (AHEC) have continued to work to expand the health care workforce and ensure that it reflects the diversity of the people they serve. The AHEC group led by Sharon Powell and Rachel Lackland and board members Joe Zanoni, Rohan Jerimiah, and Aida Giachello have identified barriers to successful career development and are promoting practical policy and systems solutions. We just completed a guide for students and prospective students to help them understand the financial burdens and opportunities available to them as they contemplate health career education. Policy recommendations are emerging that we will follow up on in the coming year. Over the past few years we have nurtured one of our AHEC student’s progress from being a community college student without a clear direction, to an apprentice, to completing her nursing degree. She walked into our office recently in her nurse’s uniform ready for work.

We gave her a stethoscope to express our congratulations.

In our Schweitzer program, led by Ray Wang, Maya Bauer, and Karen Loda and board members Art Kohrman, Steve Rothschild, Sara Lindholm, Elizabeth Salisbury, Rachel Reichlin, we support 30 grad students in the health professions each year to expose them to work with communities most in need. This is where the students find the opportunity to heal and to nurture their commitment to those most marginalized. This year, one of our “Fellows for Life” – that’s what you become when you finish the program – received a seed grant from us to support his work mentoring community college students as they make their way figuring out their futures. That student, with us under the DACA program has him at risk, yet he is creating a program that he knows will benefit young aspiring health professionals. Another fellow has developed a project that offers counseling, group therapy and social support for incarcerated women at the Cook County Department of Corrections. The project fosters communication, trust, and a sense of community among the women, many of whom are recovering from addiction.
These programs change lives.

Our Center for Long Term Care reform, led by Mike Gelder, Phyllis Mitzen and board members Sara Lindholm, Robyn Golden, Steve Rothschild, and Tom Wilson is revamping itself to identify and focus on immediate opportunities in Chicago, Cook County and the state to ensure that older adults, people with disabilities and those facing serious mental illness are safe and secure, whether in their own homes or in facilities. Public policies must provide resources to allow and encourage them to exercise their rights to choose where they live, with whom they live, and have the assistance necessary to support living and inclusion in the community. We also are collaborating with Rush University to develop materials that will support a growing and diverse workforce of professionals, para-professionals, and family members.

Our Center for Public Health Equity, identifies and confronts structural racism as a major barrier to health equity. Just one recent example is our local collaboration to fight back on The Trump administration’s proposed Public Charge regulation that would further undermine immigrant applications for a green card if they’ve accessed public benefits, such as Medicaid or food stamps. This needs to be called out for what it is, and what it will mean for people’s health. The center works on a multitude of issues – helping hospitals and other health and social services providers to be welcoming to immigrants, ensuring that the City’s five-year housing plan is inclusive and aligned with goals of equity, and creating a workgroup to explore ways to destigmatize and provide innovative support for those facing opioid addiction. As we remain committed to a national health program, we work with many others to examine ways to ensure that Illinois expands access to healthcare with incremental steps such as the public option. Our efforts bolster Illinois’ commitment to the ACA, to the health care marketplace and to Medicaid expansion. This work is led by staff Wesley Epplin, and Yuliana Lopez, and board members Linda Murray, Lon Berkeley, Joe Zanoni, Mildred Williamson, Claudia Fegan, Tom Wilson, Joe Feinglass, Robyn Golden, Elizabeth Salisbury Afshar, Suzanne Carlberg Racich, Jen McGowan Tomke, Amy Lulich, and Rachel Reichlin.

And finally, the Illinois Adverse Childhood Experiences Response Collaborative at HMPRG has analyzed statewide data to develop policy recommendations to mitigate the impact of childhood trauma on children and adults. Just imagine how much more vibrant, healthy and productive we could all be if we could reduce childhood trauma, address the root causes of trauma, and limit their impact on school dropout rates, violence, incarceration and health. We are working with 17 area hospital and health departments across the state that recognize the value for their employees, patients and communities of becoming trauma-informed institutions.

Recently I had the good fortune to be at a meeting about trauma and violence, sitting with the head of trauma surgery at one of our leading medical centers in Chicago, and he said, “I’m tired of only treating the trauma – the bullet and knife wounds and not the root causes — I need to learn how to be an advocate for change.” That is our path. Lara Altman and Madison Hammett lead this work, along with board members Elena Quintana, Joe Feinglass and Rachel Reichlin.

I could tell dozens more stories. I won’t—but I hope these give you a taste of the policy, program and systems reform work we do. It is important work and it is also different. Because we are small, grassroots, trusted, nimble, and not afraid, we are uniquely situated to advocate for change in systems that too often become entrenched.

We are unusual. Our board is actively engaged in the work. This mighty group of thirty are all health and social policy experts, many with decades of experience that they bring to our working board/staff collaborative model. This amplifies our capacity many fold.

The challenges before us are enormous. We must identify the root causes of ill health, take on racist policies and practices, strengthen the health care safety net, develop a workforce prepared for the changing demographics and emerging health care needs, create a sane healthcare financing system, close the widening racial and ethnic disparities in health outcomes, and create models of care that focus on population health and prevention.
We know that we can only accomplish health justice if we link our health movements with other social movements, so we partner with dynamic change agents in our community like many of you and the individuals and groups we are honoring tonight.

Our founder Quentin Young’s infectious optimism still infuses us at Health and Medicine and strengthens our will to keep fighting these battles—it’s what we know how to do – it’s what all of you and others count on us to do. We won’t let you down. Thank you for your partnership and your support.