PUBLIC HEALTH POLICY
Policy Directors: Olivia Di Giulio and Ethan Johanson
Advocacy Director: Elizabeth Nguyen
The Public Health Policy sector focuses on the health and wellbeing of society. Especially when affecting the entire human population, public health in aspects of COVID-19 and other epidemics, mental health, and healthcare accessibility and affordability among many other topics are essential to maintaining health and quality of life.
1. COVID-19 Student mental health (SMH) response plan
The Public Health Policy Team’s first policy paper addresses the exacerbated mental health afflictions high school students are prone to experiencing as a result of the COVID-19 crisis and social distancing mandates. Given that many high school students’ primary mental health resources came from their temporarily closed schools, the policy advocates for the facilitation of a partnership with Virginia counties to both provide students access to mental health resources. To accomplish these goals, the policy promotes the implementation of MindWise Innovations’ Signs of Suicide (SOS) Prevention Program, which incorporates a student training, guided discussion, and depression screening. Additionally, the policy calls for the administration of Red Cross’s COVID-19-specific Psychological First Aid Training for faculty, equipping them foster an environment of mental wellness in their classrooms, identify signs of poor mental health in students, and subsequently connect students with proper counseling resources.
2. Time for 9 toolkit
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, public health disparities among minority groups have been shown by how the virus is disproportionately impacting minority groups. Not only is COVID-19 exacerbating the systematic racial disparities in the American healthcare system, but it is also targeting those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged. To most efficiently aid minority and low income communities, a combination of factors that each contribute to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 must be addressed. The Time For 9 Toolkit aims to empower elected officials to effectively address these inequities by uplifting successful models of equity focused testing protocols, community-government partnerships, and resource allocation in cities and states across the country.
3. Interpreter Services for Limited English Speakers (ISLES)
The expanding number of languages spoken across Virginia, the significant increase in Medicaid enrollees in Virginia over the past four years, and the lack of accountability concerning Medicaid standards of linguistic equity as outlined in Title VI convergently illuminate a stark need for interpreter service reimbursement reform within Virginia’s Medicaid framework. The ISLES plan encourage DMAS (Department of Medical Assistance Services) to recommend that MCOs (Managed Care Organizations) hire certified medical interpreters and compile a list of certifications and language proficiency exams that would affirm an interpreter’s value to a MCO. Our policy also calls for DMAS to reimburse MCOs for costs related to translation and interpretation services.
4. Prison Reforms to Improve Menstrual Equity (PRIME)
Individuals living in correctional facilities must quickly adapt to a loss of autonomy. Beyond their loss of several civil rights, incarcerated individuals are continually stripped of their dignity through a lack of control over their personal hygiene. Limited access to menstrual products in correctional facilities across the United States poses a threat to not only the dignity, but the physical wellness and safety of incarcerated menstruators. In Muskegon, County, Michigan, prison staff forced thirty incarcerated menstruators to share a pack of twelve pads leaving less than half of one pad per individual. When this case was brought forward in court, it was decided that the “deprivation of menstrual products was “de minimus” -- too trivial to be considered a violation of the Constitution.” The lack of legislative and judicial accountability concerning menstrual equity in correctional facilities creates dire consequences for incarcerated menstruators. Menstrual equity advocate and former inmate Kimberly Haven reports that throughout her sentence, overpriced menstrual products from the commissary and uncomfortable encounters with correctional officers compelled her to craft her own menstrual products. Due to toxic shock syndrome caused by her makeshift products, when Ms. Haven returned home, she needed a hysterectomy. Ms. Haven is one of many individuals who has endured physical turmoil and a degrading power imbalance resulting from the stigma and shame surrounding menstruation, a societal burden that is only made heavier inside prison walls.
5. Expanding Community Health Opportunities (ECHO)
To make family caregiving less financially burdensome and bolster the professional health services available in HPSAs, ECHO proposes a 0.6% payroll tax split evenly between employers and employees that would fund a national paid family and medical leave program and other programs identified by the HRSA. Two-thirds of the revenue generated by the payroll tax would fund the national paid family and medical leave program. Each state that has already implemented a paid family and medical leave program or pledges to create one would have the option to opt out of the national program. Currently, “nine states and D.C. have enacted paid family and medical leave laws in their jurisdictions.” If implemented, ECHO would permit workers to attain paid family and medical leave if they demonstrate a need to provide care for a spouse, child, relative, or any consenting individual who relies on the caregiver for daily medical assistance or the completion of daily tasks due to a debilitating health condition. Each state that opts into the national program would determine the percentage of monthly wages that a worker would still earn while on family and medical leave and the maximum duration of a worker’s leave of absence.
6. Ameliorating Birthing Outcomes by Administering Reimbursement for Doulas (ABOARD)
To improve birth outcomes for women of color in the Washington, D.C. area, ABOARD includes policy recommendations to ensure an equitable, effective implementation of Medicaid reimbursement for doulas in Washington, D.C. At a dangerously high rate of maternal mortality, DC measured almost two times the national average in 2020. Black birthing people make up the vast majority of pregnancy-related deaths in DC. ABOARD focuses on the implementation of a doula reimbursement plan through Medicaid that the DC Council authorized.