Supreme Court EPA Ruling Will Disproportionately Impact Vulnerable Communities

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Environmental Protection Agency last Thursday, restricting the agency’s ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the country as climate change continues to disproportionately impact low-income communities and residents of color. 

Moving forward, the EPA will need explicit permission from Congress to enforce such regulations. The 6-to-3 decision has also sparked concerns nationwide that the ruling might affect the regulatory efforts of similar federal agencies, according to GBH. 

“The consequences of this decision will ripple across the entire federal government, from the regulation of food and drugs to our nation’s health care system, all of which will put American lives at risk,â€� said Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York. 

Research experts and environmental advocates continue to study the variety of ways climate change continues to affect vulnerable communities throughout the country. 

“Disasters can have the effect of widening existing inequalities,� said Caroline Ratcliffe, a senior economist at the Office of Research at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Black residents who experience extreme weather encountered financial issues three times the rate of white people while Latino residents faced financial problems more than twice the rate of white people, according to a nationwide survey conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.  

“Facing extreme weather has had a substantial impact on millions of Americans, who have had serious property damage, health, and financial consequences,” said Professor Robert J. Blendon of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.


Publisher’s Notes: This story is an aggregate from GBH.

Cover Photo: Rick Bowmer / AP

CT Public Library Initiative Seeks to Close Local Digital Divide

Connecticut Public Libraries seek to address the growing digital divide between the state’s diverse communities through its CT Libraries & Partners for Digital Equity initiative, which participated in a series of Juneteenth events last month. 

The CT Libraries & Partners for Digital Equity Coalition oversees the new initiative that aims to provide computers, affordable high-speed broadband, and community digital navigators to local communities. Public Library staff and other community members formed the Coalition in January 2020 as a team dedicated to closing the drastic gap in digital access across Connecticut.  

“There are still families at home who don’t have internet access, who do not have a device, and who do not know how to use it,â€� said Dawn LaValle, Director of the Division of Library Development for the CT State Library. “So, the pandemic really shined a light on this problem and we’re just realizing the expanse of it.â€� 

The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly amplified the lack of digital access among local BIPOC communities, specifically among Black and Latino households. LaValle explained that CT Public Libraries have been aware of a digital gap between CT’s diverse communities but most did not recognize the gap’s full extent until 2020. 

About 31 percent of Black residents don’t have computer access at home, while 34 percent of Black residents and 35 percent of Latinx residents lack wireline broadband at home, according to a 2020 Digital Divide in CT report. Data also showed that senior citizens, low-income households, and residents with disabilities are disproportionately affected by digital inequity. 

The Digital Equity Coalition saw Juneteeth as an opportunity to discuss the importance of digital equity among local Black communities. National reports have shown that a lack of internet access strongly correlates with COVID-19 death rates.   

“Over the last few years, researchers have started to see internet access, and in particular high-speed broadband, as a critical component of health — something vital for connecting people not only with health care, but also with food, housing, education, and income, all of which are considered social determinants of health,� according to Vox.

In 2020, state-wide efforts immediately focused on the digital needs of in-need youth to assist in providing the tools necessary for remote education. 

“Helping public libraries reach out to residents who have faced discrimination and need support to join the ranks of the digitally included is central to our mission,â€� LaValle said. 

Four CT Public Libraries are participating in the Digital Navigation Pilot Project, a program that trains members of the community to help residents set up affordable broadband internet, obtain electronic devices, and learn a variety of digital skills.

The East Hartford, Hamden, and Hartford locations, along with the Ferguson Library in Stanford have employed four navigators in each library.

“Basically, as digital navigators, we meet with clients and we work with them to achieve a goal,â€� said Aujahdai Ambrose, a digital navigator for the East Hartford Public Library. 

LaValle explained that navigators’ strong interpersonal skills have been crucial to the program’s success.

“It’s having someone with that empathy, that patience, but also the skills to be able to teach this…and make that connection with a person who’s never used a computer before,â€� LaValle said.  

Ambrose mentioned the value of having several bilingual navigators and libraries on staff. 

“We’re making a move so that we can be able to accommodate everybody,â€� Ambrose said. “We have a language line and we also have a Spanish speaker so that clients…can still get connected with our program…even if they don’t speak English.â€� 

Access to Broadband

Digital navigators have been most busy helping residents connect with the federal Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), Ambrose said. The ACP offers significant broadband discounts and one-time device discounts to eligible households, according to the Federal Communications Commission. 

Electronic Devices

Each library in the pilot program decided how much of their budget to allocate to devices; the East Hartford Library obtained roughly 100 devices—Chromebooks and Microsoft Surface Go Tablets—to give out to residents, according to Ambrose. 

Digital Skills 

Navigators have been trained to teach residents a wide variety of digital basics from learning to typing to navigating Microsoft software, but they aren’t the only ones picking up new skills. Ambrose has been learning to read Braille with a client who’s visually impaired so they can navigate their devices with more ease.  

“There’s one client…I’ve had them for a while because we’ve done so many things from filling out applications to learning zoom to organizing her email, we’ve done it [all],� Ambrose said. “So learning Braille is our last stretch.�

The Ferguson Library has already begun adjusting its upcoming budget to continue working with its navigators because of the pilot program’s early success, according to Ambrose.

“We want our community to know that there are resources, please come in and take advantage of it,â€� Ambrose said. “Our Black [communities] and [other] communities of color are the communities that are really being affected by digital inequity and that’s why we’re here to support them.â€�   

CT Libraries & Partners for Digital Equity meet on the fourth Tuesday of every month at 2 p.m., learn more at www.sites.google.com/view/ctlibrariespartnersdigequity/ 


Publisher’s Notes: CTLN is a proud partner of the Connecticut State Public Libraries.

Illinois Latino News Ranked One of the Best Latina Blogs and Websites

In less than a year since it launched, Illinois Latino News has gained recognition in the Hispanic-Latino market, being named one of the “90 Best Latina Blogs and Websites� by Feedspot. According to Feedspot, this list was specifically ranked by “traffic, social media followers, domain authority and freshness.�

As Latino News Network’s (LNN) youngest market, ILLN has strived to bring greater visibility to Latinos in Illinois by producing stories that highlight their voices, such as a young Latina entrepreneur’s role in constructing mega-development Lincoln Yards and the suggested implementation of Hispanic-Latino culture in treating mental health concerns, to name a few. 

ILLN debuted in October 2021, becoming LNN’s first outlet outside of New England and spearheading the organization’s venture into the Midwest.

“Our newsroom is thrilled to be included in Feedspot’s “90 Bestâ€� list,â€� said Hugo Balta, Owner and Publisher of the Latino News Network. “For Illinois Latino News to be among the three recognized, having only launched last October, speaks to the dedication and quality of work by our team.â€� 

ILLN joins New Hampshire Latino News (NHLN) and the LNN landing page to be named 60, 65, and 81 respectively on the list. They were included among other influential websites and blogs in the Hispanic-Latino market, including Remezcla, HuffPost Latino Voices, The National Association of Hispanic Journalists and Latino Rebels. 

Feedspot ranks blogs, podcasts and influencers into different niche categories to provide users with a convenient method of staying up-to-date with all of their favorite media in one place. The site utilizes a combination of algorithm and human input to curate the lists, sorting through millions of blogs on the internet to select the most influential across 5,000 categories and industries.

The post Illinois Latino News Ranked One of the Best Latina Blogs and Websites appeared first on ILLN.

Ray Nunez: Disrupting Dominant Culture Through Marketing

Ray Nuñez has a life-long passion for creative storytelling, inclusive community engagement, and equitable brand building. Since migrating to the United States from Los Reyes, Michoacán, Mexico in 1999, Nuñez has been recognized nationally for his innovative work in marketing, design, and leadership.

In 2015, Nuñez graduated from College Leadership Rhode Island and in 2017 he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Graphic Design and Digital Media from Johnson & Wales University. 

After working in the media industry Nuñez decided to make a shift in his career towards entrepreneurship. 

Ray Nuñez delivers a speech on his entrepreneurial journey at Equity Institute‘s Regeneration event. Courtesy: LinkedIn

“In February of 2020, my wife and I quit our full-time jobs, left our health insurance, left all security,� Nuñez told Providence Monthly.

Nuñez and his equally-driven partner Taryn launched Nuñez, The People’s Agency, a multi-cultural marketing agency with an anti-racist focus that embodies the diversity and equity they wished to see globally. 

The agency helps mostly BIPOC-owned businesses and nonprofit organizations navigate digital migration and overcome the systemic barriers in place that traditionally keep these firms from accessing resources. 

During the 2020 election, The People’s Agency played a key role in eliminating “Providence Plantationsâ€� from the state’s name, which was officially Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

Nuñez said they launched a marketing plan, including customizing video messaging to each zip code in the state in order to best reach the majority of voters. The campaign was successful as the amendment passed with approximately 53 percent of the vote.

Nuñez’s bet is on the untapped creative potential born out of defiance of dominant culture. As such, he’s placing his chips in gathering a culturally diverse team at The People’s Agency to create a unique, fresh perspective on the way businesses and individuals tell their stories at the intersection of four focus points: data, design, disruption, and diversity.

“As the most influential industry, because we are everything you see, everything you read is marketing, it’s design, it’s communication, we knew that we had this huge responsibility to do good with that,� said Nuñez.

Nuñez sits on numerous boards in his effort to support marginalized communities, including the Latino Policy Institute and Rhode Island Mexican Association. He is the Vice President of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and a Community Advisory Board Member at the United Way of Rhode Island. Through these projects, he says he hopes to provide youth leadership opportunities and promote inclusivity.

Nuñez pictured with son Ramoncito | Courtesy: LinkedIn

Nuñez’s efforts led him to be named ‘2022 Who To Watch’ by Providence Monthly and receive a ‘Next Tech Generation 2021 Tech10 Award’ by The Tech Collective. He resides in Riverside, Rhode Island with his wife, their son Ramon, and their three dogs; Frida, Diego, and Pancho.

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Ray Nuñez was first profiled in the Latino Policy Institute’s #LatinosInRI series.

LPI and RI Latino News are partners in elevating the visibility and voices of Rhode Island’s Hispanic-Latino communities.

Is there someone in the community you think we should feature? Send us your ideas to Info@LatinoNewsNetwork.com.

Puerto Rican Festival Returns In Person, Celebrates Richness of Culture

The annual Puerto Rican Fest returned richer than ever to Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood with celebratory piña coladas, bomba dancing, alcapurrias and everything red, white and blue. Although violence occurred at last year’s Puerto Rican Day Parade, this year’s attendees enjoyed a vibrant and peaceful weekend.

The festival was held Thursday June 9 through Sunday June 12, celebrating Puerto Rican culture and pride in person, without restrictions, after two years of the ongoing pandemic. Puerto Rican Festival committee members said that this year’s ticket prices increased due to budget concerns, costing visitors $10 to enter the festival. In 2018 ticket prices were $2 and in 2019 they were $5 according to a 2021 Paseo Podcast episode, which featured members of the Puerto Rican Festival committee.

Erica Perez owner of Nola Taino shows off her bomba inspired painted woodcuts.

Puerto Rican artist, owner of Nola Taíno and DePaul alumna Erica Perez was excited to finally be back and share her culture through her art. She said a lot of her inspiration comes from her Taíno roots— the indigenous people of the Caribbean and Florida who danced bomba. 

“Dance and music is what inspires most of my stuff and that’s where I want to continue to lead, â€� Perez said. 

Her artwork is mostly crafted from reclaimed wood, ranging from wine caddies, earrings, painting cut outs and even propagation tubes made from leftover benches. 

The festival is a way for Perez and many other Puerto Ricans to embrace their roots even though they live away from the island.

“I connect a lot to the island every time I go there,� Perez said. “I cry when I leave.�

Despite the distance, solidarity with the island was visible across the park as many wore a black and white version of the Puerto Rican flag, including Perez.

A festival visitor holds up the Puerto Rican resistance flag.

This flag is known as the resistance flag and was a response to the Obama administration passing the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) in 2016, which gave the United States financial control over Puerto Rico according to USA Today. Critics such as Bernie Sanders viewed this decision as an act of colonialism because PROMESA’s board was composed of people who did not live nor were elected in Puerto Rico. 

The flag is now often used as a symbol of resistance and grief according to USA Today.

“The black Puerto Rican flag is a representation of resistance of the political people on the island,â€� Perez said. “It unites us here you know, we’re so far away and so I feel like anytime I see someone wearing it here, like no, I’m with my people.â€� 

Angelica Torres chopped up bits of ice and pieces of pineapple in a blender to serve guests fresh piña colada drinks. For her the festival is a way to not only celebrate her culture but also earn some money. 

Torres has been coming to the festival for around eight years now and after not attending for two years, she said being back felt “amazing.�

While she multitasked between taking orders and making drinks, Torres reflected on her Puerto Rican heritage. 

“We have a great culture, great food, great drinks, and an amazing island,� she said.

The festival encapsulated more than art and delicious drinks; it was also a place where medical clinics like CALOR could educate the Humboldt Park community about STIs. CALOR provided free HIV testing at the festival. 

CALOR program manager Alfredo Flores said it felt appropriate to attend the festival because organizations like CALOR are not typically present at events like these. 

“It’s a way to access individuals,â€� Flores said. “It’s really important to also help educate individuals at festivals who might not know their status and want to know about HIV.â€�  

Flores said they were able to test over 300 people during the festival’s four day celebrations. This was a “big firstâ€� according to Flores because of the high stigma around HIV. 

For CALOR, part of destigmatizing HIV in the Latinx community is creating a welcoming environment. Their tent was surrounded by pride flags and representatives dancing to reggaeton music. 

Flores said that people often approach the CALOR tent quietly, but once they enter their space and see them dancing, “they’re like, ‘oh my god,’ that’s my people.� 

Festival attendees like Noelani Sanchez said she felt safe at this year’s event despite the neighborhood’s struggle with gun violence in previous years. There were nine homicides and 29 shootings in the 26th Ward in August 2021 according to Block Club’s analysis on Chicago Police Department data.

“I personally have never felt unsafe,� Sanchez said. “I always feel pretty secure, everyone is friendly and just happy to be there. I haven’t had a bad experience myself.�

Previous festival attendees expressed concerns about the rise in ticket prices.

In a 2021 Paseo Podcast episode, Executive Director of the Puerto Rican Festival Carlos Jiménes Flores said that the reason for the ticket price uptick was due to budget issues.

“The problem is we have no budget.� Flores said in 2021. “We have no budget, we have no home.�

Flores said that he and the other committee members have a lot of ideas they wish to implement but they struggle to do so because of lack of money. 

“I know that people are gonna feel some type of way with us charging at the gate, but there is no other way to raise money for next year,â€� Flores said in 2021. 

Flores explained that the ticket funds collected at the door will be reinvested into the Humboldt Park community. 

“The money that we get not only are web generating resources and connecting the community with so many different outlets for positivity so we can impact the negativity that’s going on in our neighborhoods,â€� Flores said in 2021. “That’s the only way to battle the violence and the poverty and the lack of education.â€� 

The Agenda of Chicago and the Puerto Rican Festival of Chicago did not respond to comments about safety and ticket prices in time for publication. 

Hundreds of people attended the festival over the weekend. Although the festival was open to everyone, Puerto Rican traditions were at the center. People were able to learn about the culture up close through the fresh food, live music and authentic vendors. 

Perez said that they hope attendees leave the festival with a newfound appreciation for Puerto Rico. 

“I hope that they’re inspired to try new things and go different ways and also respect their culture as well,â€� Perez said. 

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Publisher’s Note: You can read The DePaulia’s version of Puerto Rican Festival returns in person, celebrates richness of culture here.

Illinois Latino News (ILLN) and La DePaulia are partners in best serving the Hispanic-Latino community.

The post Puerto Rican Festival Returns In Person, Celebrates Richness of Culture appeared first on ILLN.

New Hampshire Law Set To Help Students With Disabilities Register To Vote

A new law taking effect in August is set to help students with disabilities get assistance in voter registration.

According to the Associated Press, the law requires discussions about registering to vote between school officials, parents, and students with disabilities aged 17 or older as part of their special education curriculum preparing for life after high school graduation.

Rep. Mark Paige was the law’s main sponsor. He said that the it uses framework already in place for students and that he introduced the legislation after parents expressed concerns about wanting their children to graduate prepared to be civically engaged in their communities. 

“Just having that conversation about registering delivers an empowering message to the student,� said Paige. “It says: we need you involved; your voice and vote matter, and when you use them, you can have an impact.�

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5.4 million Hispanics in the United States, about nine percent of all ages, have some form of disability, according to an analysis of census data by the University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability.

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The U.S. Election Assistance Commission reported that in 2020 about 62 percent of people with disabilities voted, an increase from 56 percent in the 2016 election. That same report stated that an estimated 1.95 million people with disabilities had trouble voting in 2020, around 11 percent. 

The state of New Hampshire already has accessibility measures in place at the polls.

Polling places are equipped with the “one4all� system, which prepares each polling place to help voters with disabilities vote in a way that still grants them privacy. This includes audio or enhanced video interface on tablets, with ballots that look the same as all other ballots available on Election Day and are also counted the same way.

The program is implemented statewide for general and primary elections however it is not yet available for local or town elections.

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Photo: John Schnobrich for Unsplash

Community Experts Prepare for Abortion Restrictions’ Disproportionate Impact on BIPOC

Community experts and advocates expect the overturn of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey to disproportionately impact people of color across the country. 

Suffolk University Law School Professor and Director Renée Landers explained that women of color mostly choose to get an abortion for financial reasons or because they lack adequate healthcare and insurance coverage.

“This notion that this is a decision about respecting the health and wellbeing of women and children, or pregnant people and children, is just not credible given [the] current status of things,” Landers told GBH.

Local leaders are especially concerned about potential criminal charges that may follow BIPOC women seeking abortions in restrictive states or if they travel out of state for the procedure, as criminalization currently disproportionately impacts communities of color. 

“We need to be extraordinarily vigilant about how we go about organizing our day-to-day lives,â€� said Executive Director Iván Espinoza-Madrigal of Lawyers for Civil Rights in Boston. “With the landscape, the risk of criminalization, it is really important to get legal advice, especially if you’re in a state where these trigger laws are starting to pop up.â€� 

Experts also expect the Supreme Court’s ruling to disproportionately impact low-income residents living in rural areas of states where abortions are now banned since these individuals likely lack the transportation to travel out of state for an abortion.  

Rural communities have become more racially and ethically diverse over the last decade, according to Brookings. In 2020, census population data found that 24% of rural Americans were people of color. 

“I am deeply disappointed in today’s decision by the Supreme Court which will have major consequences for women across the country who live in states with limited access to reproductive health care services,” Gov. Charlie Baker said Friday.

Baker responded to Friday’s ruling with a “shield lawâ€� that aims to protect abortion providers from out-of-state lawsuits. 

“The Commonwealth has long been a leader in protecting a woman’s right to choose and access to reproductive health services, while other states have criminalized or otherwise restricted access,â€� Baker said. “This executive order will further preserve that right and protect reproductive health care providers who serve out of state residents.â€� 

In 2020, the State House passed the ROE Act, which established abortion access up to 24 weeks with exceptions after 24 weeks and authorized anyone age 16 and over to get an abortion without consent from a parent or judge. 

Advocates expect these established protections to attract large numbers of patients seeking abortions to the state, as about 26 states are expected to ban or heavily restrict abortion access. 

“It could mean wait times at clinics are longer,â€� said Smith College Professor Carrie Baker. “You know, certainly people here in Massachusetts are going to be spending a lot of time and energy to help people in other states — the abortion funds and potentially doctors.â€� 


Publisher’s Notes: This story is an aggregate from GBH.

Cover Photo: Meredith Nierman / GBH News

It Takes A Village To Address The Youth Mental Health Crisis

Carolina Serna’s job as a care coordinator for the Clifford Beers, a behavioral health care provider based in New Haven, puts her in the middle of today’s mental health crisis for kids, teenagers, and their families. When Clifford Beers gets referrals for cases, Serna and other care coordinators become the face of the organization, helping children and families get the clinical care they need. But Serna and her colleagues do much more than that. In a sense, they’re the bridge between troubled families and the rest of society.

Take one of the many tough situations Serna handled during the COVID-19 crisis: A young Hispanic mother in New Haven had just lost her job. Her husband left. She was pregnant. Her son faced behavioral health and disability issues. And she was being evicted from her apartment. The first thing Serna did was get the mom a lawyer. Then she reached out to the school and social service agencies for help. “The mom didn’t know how to connect, so I connected the family to the help they needed,� says Serna, who is bilingual.

The story has a happy ending—at least so far. During the six months that Serna worked with the family, the eviction was stopped, the mom enrolled in a program for people reentering the workforce, and the son was placed in a school for kids with special needs and received the necessary counseling.

Across the nation, the number of adolescents reporting poor mental health is increasing. A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2021 survey released in March showed that 37% of high school students experienced poor mental health during the pandemic and 44% said they persistently felt sad or hopeless during the previous year.

Separation from school and friends, the threat of becoming seriously ill, and family stresses—including lost jobs and income—sent kids to hospital emergency departments in record numbers. Other social stresses fuel crises, including domestic violence, gun violence and racism. The pain is most acute in disadvantaged communities.

The nation’s patchwork health care system isn’t built to handle this kind of crisis. There aren’t nearly enough behavior health caregivers and facilities to address demands for service, especially for poor people, says Dr. Andrew Ulrich, who is in charge of the EDs at Yale New Haven Health’s hospitals in New Haven. In addition, says Alice M. Forrester, CEO at Clifford Beers, Medicaid reimbursement levels don’t even cover the basic costs of the care organizations like hers provide, forcing them to depend on philanthropy to make ends meet.

The Connecticut General Assembly made a down payment on addressing some of these issues this session when it passed bills, which the governor signed into law recently, that expanded mobile crisis programs throughout the state and created grant programs to hire more school-based counselors.

Despite the depth of the crisis and dearth of funding, there is a glimmer of hope. In communities across the state, groups are collaborating and experimenting with innovative approaches to improving health and well-being. One example is how Serna of Clifford Beers helped the New Haven woman and her children. The idea is that when the social determinants of health are considered and community resources are coordinated, the well-being of individuals and entire communities can improve. The approach also involves families and neighborhood organizations in decisions affecting them.

Ultimately, these experiments could change how our society thinks about and delivers health care. Following this model, health care and social service organizations aren’t competing with one another or operating in isolation but are working together to achieve common aims. “We’re shifting from short-term self-interest to long-term shared interest,â€� says Rick Brush, the CEO of Wellville, a national nonprofit health advisory group that assists local collaboratives in five U.S. communities, including north Hartford neighborhoods.

The community-health-collaboration idea is taking hold in Connecticut. Just before the pandemic, Connecticut’s Office of Health Strategy (OHS) launched its Health Enhancement Community (HEC) initiative. So far, nine HECs have been established across the state. All are focused on community-led collaborations aimed at addressing social, economic, and physical conditions to improve general well-being. OHS is also encouraging the HECs to change the incentives in the health care system—from pay-for-service to paying for better health outcomes. “Our strategy is around driving community-directed and community-led initiatives to address specific needs in each community, reducing disparities and ensuring communities are engaged for the long game,â€� says Victoria Veltri, OHS executive director.

Rick Brush, the CEO of Wellville, supports the work being done in north Hartford neighborhoods to bring together residents and community organizations to improve their quality of life. Steve Hamm Photo.

In Hartford, for instance, a HEC was organized under the auspices of the North Hartford Triple Aim Collaborative, whose goal is to improve individual and community health while lowering health care costs. The group includes representatives from the city of Hartford, the United Way, Trinity Health, Connecticut Children’s, and Hartford Hospital, but it also invites community organizations and individuals to the table.

In addition, Connecticut Children’s has partnered with the City of Hartford, Hartford Public Schools, and other organizations to develop a signature new project, the North Hartford Ascend Pipeline. They landed a $30 million federal grant to be matched by local contributions that will fund an array of interlocking services to improve the well-being of young people from prenatal into young adulthood. “The key is getting to children and supporting families early,â€� says Dr. Paul H. Dworkin, director of Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health. “That way, we can achieve much better outcomes for these children as they grow to be adolescents and adults.â€�

Community health innovators in Connecticut aren’t shy about adopting and adapting approaches that have been piloted elsewhere. For instance, the community outreach program at Clifford Beers is based on the Wrap-Around Milwaukee model for coordinating social and health care services.

Clifford Beers plans to take its community engagement to another level with a resilience center it hopes to locate in New Haven’s Newhallville neighborhood, offering early childhood services, mental health programs, after-school programs, and community health and disease prevention activities.

Health experts say the closer these coordinated service programs get to neighborhoods and families—really listening to what people want rather than dictating to them—the more likely they will have positive effects.

When Cynthia Cruz, a bilingual coordinator serving the communities of northwest Connecticut for Wellmore Behavioral Health, gets assigned to a new youth behavioral health case, the first thing she does is visit the family in their home.

They discuss what’s going on and what they would like changed. Her program only lasts six months, so she also reaches out to others in the community to see if they can help on a longer-term basis, including pastors, sports coaches, and extended family members. Wellmore refers to these human networks as “natural resources.�

The North End of Hartford. Steve Hamm Photo.

Cruz recalls one situation involving a boy and his family in the far northwest corner of the state. Earlier in the COVID crisis, the boy had retreated to his room and spent much of his time playing video games. He withdrew from his family, barely talking to his mother. During sit-downs with the family, Cruz learned that the boy loved to watch football on TV, but he didn’t play the game. So, in addition to finding a counselor for him, she recruited his uncle to toss a football around with him once a week. That broke the ice. She got the family a membership at the local YMCA. The boy began socializing with other people. He and his mom reconciled. “You know what they say,� says Cruz. “It takes a village to raise a child.�

A program launched by a team at Yale’s Child Study Center, Supportive Parenting for Anxious Childhood Emotions (SPACE), puts parents at the center of their offspring’s care. Clinicians train parents to deal directly with children who have anxiety disorders, rather than depending on professional therapy sessions.

“There are young people who can’t or won’t engage with cognitive therapy, so we were driven to find another tool,â€� says Eli R. Lebowitz, an associate professor at the Child Study Center whose team developed the technique. Their approach has been adopted by therapists worldwide and really took off after Lebowitz published a best-selling book in 2021 about it, â€œBreaking Free of Child Anxiety and OCD.â€�

In one of Lebowitz’s cases, a 12-year-old Milford girl had developed such severe anxiety that she would not speak to anyone outside her home. Lebowitz helped the parents understand they were hampering her recovery by speaking for her in such situations. They changed their behavior, which gradually led to their daughter regaining confidence and speaking for herself once again.

COVID triggered the youth behavioral health crisis, but it has also encouraged innovative approaches that could help address the problems young people face going forward.

“It has been a deep, deep couple of years, and, for the clinic, it has been in some ways revolutionary,� says Forrester of Clifford Beers. “We have emphasized the outreach work in the communities. Now we’re seeing the aftereffects, and we know what needs to be done.�

To connect with the Anxiety and Mood Disorders Program at the Yale Child Study Center, where free care is available in certain circumstances, call (203) 737-4644.

Information on Wellmore is available here.

You can reach Clifford Beers, which is changing its name to Clifford Beers Community Care Center on July 1, here.


It Takes A Village To Address The Youth Mental Health Crisis was first published on Connecticut Health I-Team.

Publisher’s Note:  CTLN and c-hit.org collaborate to best serve the Connecticut Hispanic, Latino community.

Cover Photo: By Melanie Stengel

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A Familismo Approach To Latino College Enrollment

The College of Lake County (CLC), a community college in Illinois, recognized as a Hispanic Serving Institution, adopted a cultural response to recruit and retain Latino students in tackling the student deficit it experienced during the pandemic.

According to its official enrollment numbers, the response saw a 27 percent increase in Latino student enrollment for the Fall 2021 semester (36 percent of all students were Latinx, per CLC). According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, this was a welcomed change since Latino undergraduate enrollment in colleges nationwide declined by seven percent between 2019-2021.

The college’s multipronged cultural response included hiring bilingual therapists that offer counseling in English and Spanish to Spanish-speaking and international students and a Latino student outreach coordinator to be part of its student inclusion and activities office. CLC also hired a new team of college and career navigators that were embedded in high schools feeding into its community college district to encourage Latino students to enroll in college after graduation, according to Erin Fowles, the college’s director of enrollment. 

Like CLC, City Colleges of Chicago, a system of 7 community colleges and 5 satellite sites in the Chicago area, undertook concerted efforts to meet the cultural needs of the 17,912 Latino credit-earning students across its campuses in order to encourage retention and recruitment. Some of the measures CCC adopted included celebrating Latino cultural events, such as  “Hispanic Heritage Month,â€� and other culturally significant days such as Hispanic/Latino Flag Day, Fiesta del Barrio, and Fiesta del Sol, according to Veronica Resa, the college’s director of media relations.

“I think a cultural approach to the Latino community is [needed], that there’s a sort of what we call familismo or… a feeling of a sense of community that we as a whole, are really invested in higher education and progressing our community forward for the sake of our country,â€� said Emily Labandera, director of research at Excelencia in Education, a DC-based nonprofit, aimed at accelerating Latino students’ success in higher education.

Latino College Completion – Illinois

The sentiment of recognizing the cultural needs of Latino students is echoed by student Sergio Blacutt, who was enrolled in Northern Virginia Community College as a political science major when the pandemic struck, leading him to decide to drop out.

Blacutt had struggled with the transition to remote learning and was afraid his declining grades would lead him to lose his financial aid. So he decided it was best to take a break from college and focus on getting a job while tending to his family.

“My parents were running low on money because they weren’t getting as many hours,” Blacutt said. “There was only one person in my house that was really getting hours, [my dad] because my dad would work overnight.”

Along with the financial responsibilities of his household, Blacutt also took on parenting duties.

“I had to take care of my sister, who at that moment wasn’t working. She was just graduating high school,” he said.  

According to Andrea Flores, Assistant Professor of Education at Brown University, “For many [Latino] families, it was a decision between meeting those basic human needs and trying to get ahead. Unfortunately, there weren’t that many safety nets initially for folks to be able to balance both [jobs and a college education].”

The situation gets even more complicated for families of front-line and essential workers and undocumented families.

“I think that families, particularly low-income families and immigrant families, have had to deal with the consequences of the shutdowns in a different way because their jobs tend to be more of many working-class migrants, like restaurant workers or first-line workers,â€� Flores said. 

“Obviously, this is more challenging for undocumented populations who weren’t eligible for pandemic relief,” she added about the challenges immigrant families face. “So for undocumented students in college, the situation became even more dire.”Pre-pandemic, Latino student populations in higher educational institutions were growing at an accelerated rate, according to Labandera, before it fell sharply. In community colleges, where a large population of students identify as Latino, there was a nearly 28% decline in Latino student enrollment in Fall 2020, according to the NSCRC.

“So about six months into the pandemic, we saw a significant drop in that enrollment and when we look at projected data over this next decade, that enrollment is projected to increase but not at that significant sort of accelerated rate that we were seeing,� she said.

“I remember being depressed, just stuck in here [at home], not moving, especially since every day, I was going out when I was going to college.�

Sergio Blacutt, was enrolled in Northern Virginia Community College

In improving enrollment, the cultural approach provides psychological resources to students, since the issues caused by the pandemic compounded to affect students’ mental wellness. 

“Mental health is a real thing as well….being locked up for a certain time, you can get depressed,� Blacutt said. “I remember being depressed, just stuck in here [at home], not moving, especially since every day, I was going out when I was going to college.�

In many Latino households, students live with multiple generations of their family or share accommodation with other families, making it more challenging to focus on remote classes, Flores said.

According to its Dean of Student Life, Gabriel Lara, the College of Lake County was helped by its bilingual therapist service in fostering a sense of community among its Latino students. 

The college’s Counseling and Psychology Services (CAPS) provides “culturally responsive clinical services to CLC students,� and its director, Arellys Aguinaga, is Latina. The bilingual therapists provide counseling in both English and Spanish, Lara said.

Lara added that cultural representation through staff is how colleges have sought to meet their students’ cultural needs. Hence, an increasingly growing demand; for example, at CLC, Latino students make up around 42 percent of the total student demographic seeking counseling.

“So by having these resources not only in their native language but also culturally, it creates that opportunity for students who want to be here,� Lara said.

City Colleges of Chicago also undertook concerted efforts to take care of Latino students’ mental health, according to Veronica Resa, its director of media relations. “City Colleges of Chicago ensures students are connected to its Wellness Centers for social and emotional support,� she said.

Looking at Latino students as more than a monolith is key to a thriving cultural response.

“I think at the higher ed level; it’s going to require universities and colleges to really work with students to manage what needs they might have as a family,  and understand that a student is not just a student, and isn’t just one type of person, that they have many, many other roles,” Flores said.

Adopting a holistic approach toward students is one of the themes Labandera said her nonprofit found in the institutions it recognized with its seal of Excelencia for having successful Latino student-centered programs. In its 2021 “What Works For Latino Students Compendium,� the nonprofit identified some common elements in its examples of Excelencia, such as the importance of building comunidad (community) and using an asset-based approach that celebrates students’ unique strengths and contributions.

This importance of building community is recognized by City Colleges of Chicago, through its encouragement of Latino student organizations across its campuses, such as the Latin American Student Organization and Organization of Latinx American Students (OLAS), according to Resa. CCC documents its student success stories on its website as well as through newsletters and its social media platforms.

“Because education transforms lives, City Colleges of Chicago has a vital role to play in supporting Latinx students, all students, and their communities, so we can help build a stronger and more just city,” said Juan Salgado, Chancellor of City Colleges of Chicago. “Racial and ethnic inequities remain pervasive and have to be dismantled if we are to succeed.â€�              

For example, Howard Community College in Columbia, MD, through its Ambiciones initiative used intensive academic advising, financial aid, and culturally relevant programs such as hosting its on-campus senior family night in Spanish, to engage Latino students. This, according to Excelencia in Education’s website, led to a 91 percent retention rate among first-time/full-time participants of the program compared to 67 percent of non-participants, and a 50 percent retention rate among part-time student participants compared to 45 percent of non-participants, In Spring 2020, 90 percent of the program participants achieved good academic standing as opposed to 81 percent of non-participants.

While a cultural approach is necessary to recognize Latino students’ familial and community needs, there are other limitations they face along with other low-income student populations, such as financial concerns, technological barriers, and the need for balance between their work and academic schedule that will need to be addressed through different approaches.

Meeting Latino student needs through various responses such as providing financial aid, allowing for a more flexible academic schedule, and providing technological support such as ensuring a steady WIFI connection, is necessary to counteract the college dropout rate among Latino students, which ends up hurting their future prospects in the long-run.

A report by UCLA’s Latino Policy and Politics Initiative showed a disproportionate impact on Latino students and students of color when they delayed college plans, as they faced more challenges when it came to re-entry, as well as “durable negative effects on salary and expected earnings after graduation.�

In Blacutt’s case, his dropping out gave him a new direction, as he decided to pursue a career in hospitality and currently works as a sales coordinator at Island Hospitality. He plans to return to school at some point to get his associate’s degree, especially as his parents encourage him to do so.

 “I was only one semester away from getting my associates and I feel like sometimes my parents are right, maybe I should really pursue my associates because having a degree is better than having no degree,� he said.


Apps Mandar Bichu is a graduate student journalist pursuing a Masters of Science in Journalism at Northwestern University.

She is currently interning at The Chicago Reporter and Illinois Latino News (ILLN).

She specializes in multimedia journalism and is passionate about social justice reporting, travel journalism, and all forms of content creation.

You can follow her on Twitter at @ApoorvaaBichu and on LinkedIn: Apoorvaa “Appsâ€� Bichu, or check out her website to learn more about her work: CallMe-Apps.com

Publisher’s Notes: ILLN is collaborating with Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications in providing students with mentoring and real work experiences. As such ILLN is part of the professional partnerships within the Social Justice Specialization and as part of Medill’s Metro Media Lab.

Cover Photo by Abby Chung: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-wearing-brown-shirt-carrying-black-leather-bag-on-front-of-library-books-1106468/

The post A “Familismo� Approach To Latino College Enrollment appeared first on ILLN.

Roe v. Wade Overturned: Rhode Island Reacts

The Supreme Court ruled Friday to overturn Roe v. Wade, revoking the constitutional right to abortion and leaving individual states to decide themselves whether to restrict or ban abortion alltogether. 

The decision closely mirrored Justice Alito’s majority opinion draft which leaked in May of this year, making headlines and causing much political debate on reproductive rights and the separation of church and state.

According to the Washington Post, 13 states are expected to outlaw abortion within 30 days due to “trigger bansâ€� which were designed to take effect in the case that Roe was overturned. The Post reports that at least eight states banned abortion immediately after the decision was reached. 

President Biden reacted to the decision stating, “Now with Roe gone let’s be very clear, the health and life of women in this nation are now at risk.â€� He ended his speech calling on Congress to act and urging people to vote. “This is not over,â€� he said.

What this decision means for Rhode Islanders

Abortion remains legal in Rhode Island.

In anticipation of the leaked draft coming to fruition, the Rhode Island Supreme Court sustained the Reproductive Privacy Act, a 2019 ruling that solidified Roe v. Wade into state law, in early May.

“Here in Rhode Island, we will always support a woman’s right to choose,� Governor Dan McKee said in response to the decision. “Despite [Friday’s] ruling, Rhode Islanders still have the right to access abortion health care services in our state thanks to the General Assembly codifying these protections into law – but all people should have the ability to make their own reproductive health care decisions, no matter where they live.�

Officials predict that states that choose to keep abortion legal will see an increase in visitors traveling to receive abortion and reproductive health services. 

“Planned Parenthood health centers in Connecticut and Rhode Island said they’re already seeing patients from other states, particularly Texas, because those patients don’t have access to abortion care,â€� said health reporter Lynn Arditi on the Public’s Radio.

Arditi says that while these procedures remain legal, Rhode Island residents, especially low-income women, still face barriers in accessibility due to cost and insurance terms because Medicaid and other state health plans do not cover abortion services. 

“More than 85,000 women of child-bearing age in Rhode Island and their dependents are enrolled in state health insurance plans that prohibit abortion coverage, according to an analysis by The State Budget Office. So they could be forced to pay out of pocket for an abortion, which could prevent them from getting one,� she said.

Altercation at local protest goes viral

Protests arose around the nation almost immediately after Friday’s ruling, including one outside a federal courthouse building in Providence and another at the Rhode Island State House on Friday night.  

While the protests were mostly peaceful, an altercation at the State House protest is gaining national media attention.

Radio host Bill Bartholomew captured footage outside the State House in which it appears Providence police officer Jeann Lugo allegedly punches State Senate candidate Jennifer Rourke in the face.

On Saturday, Rourke shared the video on Twitter with the caption “This is what it is to be a Black woman running for office. I won’t give up.â€�

At the time of the alleged assault Lugo was running for the GOP nomination of the same seat as Rourke. He has since ended his campaign.

Gov. McKee tweeted  “The violence that occurred at a peaceful protest at our State House this weekend was outrageous. Violence of any kind is unacceptable and we will not stand for it. Thank you to our RISP for investigating this matter. Individuals responsible must be held accountable.â€�

Lugo was charged with simple assault and disorderly conduct. He has been suspended from his job with pay while the investigation is pending.

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Cover photo by Gayatri Malhotra from Unsplash