Without joining the ranks of alarmists, it is prudent at the start of any new administration, whether local, state or federal, to initiate a discussion with new policymakers regarding the critical issues that challenge those we serve. Conservatively, 90 percent of our community-based services are offered in Spanish and benefit members of the Latino community. In particular, immigration policy is an important issue, especially if immigration reform initiatives might separate parents from their American-born children or result in the deportation of undocumented children who have been educated and raised in the United States. This issue alone has created tremendous anxiety for many of those we serve. An environment of unease threatens the well-being of these children and families and fosters a secretive culture that often places children in particular at risk. Clarity on immigration policy and advocacy for a reasonable pathway out of the shadows that keeps families intact is imperative, especially in light of the incendiary comments about immigrants that were made during the election season.
Another important policy issue is access to affordable health care and mental health services. The most recent actions to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) call into question a number of its benefits that impact clients and employees alike. For the children we serve, the Children’s Health Insurance Plan has served to facilitate access to health care to some who otherwise would not be eligible. Repeal of ACA could place at risk this important insurance plan. In addition, the repeal measures could reintroduce annual and lifetime caps for services that would create significant financial burden on children and families with either chronic or serious health issues requiring care that would exceed the stated caps. Along with this, the exclusion of some from coverage because of pre-existing conditions is also a serious concern. These are all components of ACA that are very popular and have benefited many we serve. The elimination of any of them would create a considerable burden and only add to the challenges that these families address.
To be sure, no consistent direction has been established regarding any of these issues. However, while the actual policy is yet to be clearly defined, the movement to reverse the gains achieved through ACA and other initiatives has added to the consternation of those whose benefits have been placed at risk and provides no consolation to providers like Hillsides who are in the precarious position of struggling to plan appropriately in a most uncertain environment.
Change is always met with resistance but change for the better will be embraced if those most affected perceive that their interests are taken seriously into consideration. As advocates we encourage a dialogue that hopefully will lead to solutions which will safeguard the interests of those we serve while supporting improvements to the current system of care. Hopefully the political grandstanding that has paralyzed effective government will yield to a reasonable process of serving those who are most vulnerable. Regardless of the outcome, the pressing needs of those we serve cannot be dismissed. They must be given voice until fair and reasonable solutions are achieved.