Jun 22, 2018

Recent articles

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 2

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs. Part 2/2.

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 1

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs.

CCLP testifies in support of Clean Slate updates

Bethany Pray, CCLP’s Chief Legal and Policy Officer, provided testimony in support of House Bill 24-1133, Criminal Record Sealing & Expungement Changes. CCLP is in support of HB24-1133, as it is one of our priority bills.

Elisabeth Arenales’ speech for GIH’s Andy Hyman Award

by | Jun 22, 2018

Here is the acceptance speech from Elisabeth Arenales, Director of CCLP’s Health Care Program, upon receiving Grantmakers In Health’s Andy Hyman Award during the organization’s annual conference in Chicago on June 22:

Thank you to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Grantmakers In Health. It is a privilege to be here with the GIH community. I especially want to thank the staff and the awards’ committee for all of their efforts, for the gift of this award and for the logistical work that I know goes into making all of this happen.

I want to talk about the award itself and its purpose in celebrating and recognizing the life and contributions of Andy Hyman.

I first heard about the Andy Hyman Award when its establishment was announced at the GIH conference in San Diego two years ago. I was attending my first-ever GIH conference that day.

I didn’t know Andy, but as GIH staff talked about him and about the award, I remember thinking that he must have been an extraordinary person: passionate, dedicated, visionary and collaborative. He was clearly someone who inspired others and was exceptional in his ability to further social justice through his work in government, on mental health issues and through his leadership in advancing health coverage and supporting consumer voices at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. I am honored to receive the award that was established in his name.

I want to acknowledge Andy’s family: his parents, Valerie and Dr. Allen Hyman, are here today. I am so sorry for your loss, but grateful that the work which was an integral part of Andy’s life continues.

I also want to thank the Colorado foundations that nominated me: the Colorado Health Foundation, The Colorado Trust, Rose Community Foundation, and Caring for Colorado Foundation. Over the years, these foundations have been steadfast, creative and flexible funding partners. Together, they have provided the financial foundation for much of the strong advocacy work that is a hallmark of the Colorado health policy landscape.

These four foundations have provided general operating and project-based support. They have made rapid response grants so that grantees might take advantage of unexpected opportunities and respond in a timely manner to changing circumstances. They have supported nonprofit organizations from their founding through their maturation and beyond, including by helping to develop emerging leaders. They have stood by their nonprofit partners, including my own organization, during times of stress and financial hardship.

In addition to funding nonprofit organizations, these foundations have helped to meet Colorado’s need for sound data and health policy analysis by creating and supporting the Colorado Health Institute. In the early 2000s, they strengthened the advocacy field by seeding and nurturing the establishment of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, now Colorado’s unified consumer voice for health access and coverage.  They increased access to health care by funding advocacy for coverage expansion and by supporting outreach and enrollment efforts. Also, they have strengthened Colorado’s ability to develop and implement good state policy by supporting a senior health policy position in the governor’s office.

I know many people on the staff of those foundations are here today and I want to salute them for their work and thank them for their partnership, their support and for thinking of me for this award.

Finally, my mom, Duane, is here today. I want to thank her for coming. I know that I have a long way to go before I am close to being as smart, as resilient, as adventurous or as tenacious as my mother. She is an extraordinary woman. Thanks for being here, Mom, and for your understanding and support.

I thought that I would focus the rest of my remarks on legacy and the power of community.

Anyone who spends their life working towards social justice follows in the footsteps of and works shoulder to shoulder with a lot of other people.  As I stand here today, because of Andy’s work, I can’t help but think about how many people I have admired, learned from, followed in the footsteps of, and worked with over my career.

We all draw strength from different sources. Mine comes from the people I work with today and those I have worked with over the years.

No one person or organization can accomplish much alone and I have been privileged to be part of a strong consumer advocacy community in Colorado.  Together, we have been able to get a lot done over the last twenty years to increase access to health care and expand coverage.

I also have had extraordinary mentors and staff who have supported and taught me.

It has been the honor of my lifetime to work with so many community members who have dedicated their lives to making a difference: people who are willing to tell their stories, work in community, lend a helping hand, organize, protest, litigate, testify and rally in order to promote fairness and oppose injustice; people who give of themselves to make things right- or at least better for themselves, their families and their communities.

Last year, when Ron Pollack received this award, it was uncertain whether the Affordable Care Act would survive the summer.  What was at stake then was our commitment as a nation to the principle of access to health care for all.

Many of us thought, when the ACA passed, that people would no longer have to drive across multiple states to stand in line in the rain to see doctors set up in animal stalls at a remote medical fair. No longer would someone who broke their arm not be able to get surgery that make it possible for them to work again, and no longer would people die because they could not access necessary treatment, services or medications.

While the ACA survived, we continue to see its unraveling. For example, 20 states now claim, in the case of Texas v. United States, that the ACA’s requirement to cover pre-existing conditions is no longer enforceable since Congress eliminated penalties for failing to have health insurance in the Tax Bill.

Regulatory changes and financing decisions have undermined the stability of the individual insurance market. And Medicaid – the core health insurance safety net program for the poor, the aged and the disabled – is likely to cover far fewer people as states are permitted to change the structure of the program, including enshrining in a health care program for the sick and the poor the idea that you must fulfill a work requirement in order to have access to necessary care.

And it’s not just the ACA and Medicaid that are under attack. We are grappling today with the fundamental political and moral question of the scope of our responsibilities to each other;whether we are better off as a society when we leave individuals alone to thrive or fail, or when we make sure that everyone receives help when they need it in order to meet their basic human needs.

Last year, Ron talked about the consequences of the growing wealth divide in the United States.  In addition, I believe we need to consider the growing hostility to the poor in our country- and the dog whistle that underlies the rhetoric about the need to weaken or eliminate our social safety net.

The war on poverty and the reasons why we established our biggest entitlement programs are distant memories as we grapple with the question of who should have access to adequate health care, enough food, affordable housing, and fair wages.

So, what is our role in this discussion?

Since I am an advocate, it’s probably not surprising that all of you sitting in this room together seems to me the perfect opportunity to call all of us to action.

There is so much work to do.

As we move forward, I think about words like community, cooperation, coordination, connection and continuum.

The core of our mutual work is rooted in these concepts. It is rooted in community and our connections with others. It depends on cooperation and coordination, and all of our work has its place on a continuum of effective strategies.

We maximize our ability to make a difference in people’s lives and facilitate systemic change when we learn from and build upon each other’s work.

We depend on individuals, organizations and foundations that help people to meet their basic needs. We work together to strengthen our communities and support our community leaders. We change hearts and minds through effective communications. We develop and deploy data and research to educate policy makers and ourselves.  We improve systems through policy advocacy and use the courts to challenge and change the law.

Great movements and great change depend on all of these and more, and the foundation community, working together, can do much to ensure that the full continuum of change strategies is available to nonprofits as they work to advance a social justice agenda.

Thinking again about last summer, the images that have stayed with me are those of members of the disability community being arrested for putting their wheelchairs and their bodies on the line to protest in the halls of Congress in order to protect all of our rights to health coverage.

My guess is that the images that will stay with us from this summer are those now coming from ICE and the Health and Human Services detention centers: pictures of young children separated from their parents and housed in warehouses and tents. Images of crying parents who thought they were doing the right thing by fleeing horrendous conditions in their home countries to seek asylum in the United States.

Ron Pollack cited Winston Churchill last year, reminding us that he said “the U.S. will always do the right thing after it has tried everything else.”

I am going to leave you with my guide-star quotation: Dr. Martin Luther King said “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

I think if we are strategic, if we work together, if we support each other,if we build on our joint efforts and if we are resilient and hopeful, we will be amazed by the progress we can make.

-By Elisabeth Arenales

Recent articles

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 2

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs. Part 2/2.

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 1

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs.

CCLP testifies in support of Clean Slate updates

Bethany Pray, CCLP’s Chief Legal and Policy Officer, provided testimony in support of House Bill 24-1133, Criminal Record Sealing & Expungement Changes. CCLP is in support of HB24-1133, as it is one of our priority bills.

HEALTH:
HEALTH FIRST COLORADO (MEDICAID)

To maintain health and well-being, people of all ages need access to quality health care that improves outcomes and reduces costs for the community. Health First Colorado, the state's Medicaid program, is public health insurance for low-income Coloradans who qualify. The program is funded jointly by a federal-state partnership and is administered by the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing.

Benefits of the program include behavioral health, dental services, emergency care, family planning services, hospitalization, laboratory services, maternity care, newborn care, outpatient care, prescription drugs, preventive and wellness services, primary care and rehabilitative services.

In tandem with the Affordable Care Act, Colorado expanded Medicaid eligibility in 2013 - providing hundreds of thousands of adults with incomes less than 133% FPL with health insurance for the first time increasing the health and economic well-being of these Coloradans. Most of the money for newly eligible Medicaid clients has been covered by the federal government, which will gradually decrease its contribution to 90% by 2020.

Other populations eligible for Medicaid include children, who qualify with income up to 142% FPL, pregnant women with household income under 195% FPL, and adults with dependent children with household income under 68% FPL.

Some analyses indicate that Colorado's investment in Medicaid will pay off in the long run by reducing spending on programs for the uninsured.

FOOD SECURITY:
SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (SNAP)

Hunger, though often invisible, affects everyone. It impacts people's physical, mental and emotional health and can be a culprit of obesity, depression, acute and chronic illnesses and other preventable medical conditions. Hunger also hinders education and productivity, not only stunting a child's overall well-being and academic achievement, but consuming an adult's ability to be a focused, industrious member of society. Even those who have never worried about having enough food experience the ripple effects of hunger, which seeps into our communities and erodes our state's economy.

Community resources like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, exist to ensure that families and individuals can purchase groceries, with the average benefit being about $1.40 per meal, per person.

Funding for SNAP comes from the USDA, but the administrative costs are split between local, state, and federal governments. Yet, the lack of investment in a strong, effective SNAP program impedes Colorado's progress in becoming the healthiest state in the nation and providing a better, brighter future for all. Indeed, Colorado ranks 44th in the nation for access to SNAP and lost out on more than $261 million in grocery sales due to a large access gap in SNAP enrollment.

See the Food Assistance (SNAP) Benefit Calculator to get an estimate of your eligibility for food benefits.

FOOD SECURITY:
SPECIAL SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION PROGRAM FOR WOMEN, INFANTS AND CHILDREN (WIC)

Every child deserves the nutritional resources needed to get a healthy start on life both inside and outside the mother's womb. In particular, good nutrition and health care is critical for establishing a strong foundation that could affect a child's future physical and mental health, academic achievement and economic productivity. Likewise, the inability to access good nutrition and health care endangers the very integrity of that foundation.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition information for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum women and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.

Research has shown that WIC has played an important role in improving birth outcomes and containing health care costs, resulting in longer pregnancies, fewer infant deaths, a greater likelihood of receiving prenatal care, improved infant-feeding practices, and immunization rates

Financial Security:
Colorado Works

In building a foundation for self-sufficiency, some Colorado families need some extra tools to ensure they can weather challenging financial circumstances and obtain basic resources to help them and their communities reach their potential.

Colorado Works is Colorado's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and provides public assistance to families in need. The Colorado Works program is designed to assist participants in becoming self-sufficient by strengthening the economic and social stability of families. The program provides monthly cash assistance and support services to eligible Colorado families.

The program is primarily funded by a federal block grant to the state. Counties also contribute about 20% of the cost.

EARLY LEARNING:
COLORADO CHILD CARE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (CCCAP)

Child care is a must for working families. Along with ensuring that parents can work or obtain job skills training to improve their families' economic security, studies show that quality child care improves children's academic performance, career development and health outcomes.

Yet despite these proven benefits, low-income families often struggle with the cost of child care. Colorado ranks among the top 10 most expensive states in the country for center-based child care. For families with an infant, full-time enrollment at a child care center cost an average of $15,140 a year-or about three-quarters of the total income of a family of three living at the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).

The Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) provides child care assistance to parents who are working, searching for employment or participating in training, and parents who are enrolled in the Colorado Works Program and need child care services to support their efforts toward self-sufficiency. Most of the money for CCCAP comes from the federal Child Care and Development Fund. Each county can set their own income eligibility limit as long as it is at or above 165% of the federal poverty level and does not exceed 85% of area median income.

Unfortunately, while the need is growing, only an estimated one-quarter of all eligible children in the state are served by CCCAP. Low reimbursement rates have also resulted in fewer providers willing to accept CCCAP subsidies.