At the end of the year, as the REACH team works to tie up loose ends on grants awarded, projects being planned for the coming year, and preparing for the holidays, I always marvel at how committed and focused individuals are capable of tackling complex problems knowing that solutions are, in fact, within reach. I also reflect on how much can be accomplished when we work together.
Particularly satisfying for me this year was our Board’s decision to go deeper and be more public regarding our commitment to improving immigrant and refugee health.
Drawing on the ideas and issues raised by metro-area leaders who work with immigrants and refugees, the REACH Foundation sponsored an Immigrant Health Summer Series – three programs that looked at the legal, social and health and mental health concerns of immigrant and refugee members of our community. Frankly, we weren’t sure what kind of response we would get to the series. As it turned out, the sessions drew more than 250 participants and helped us solidify relationships with organizations that have deep ties to immigrant and refugee populations in the community. These partnerships have provided our team with fresh ideas on ways to invest more strategically in this area in 2018.
In the early spring we both despaired and celebrated a near-win on Medicaid expansion in Kansas. Thanks to the determined outreach and energy of a large group of Kansas advocates led by the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas, the Legislature passed HB 2044—The Bridge to a Healthy Kansas by a healthy majority. Governor Brownback vetoed the bill in early April and the House upheld the veto in an override action by just three votes. While we did not get the desired result, we did see a dramatic change in public opinion in all parts of the state about the health and economic benefits of Medicaid expansion – an important shift that we hope to build upon in 2018.
In Missouri, we worked alongside our business partners at the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce to make Kansas City a trauma-informed community through Resilient KC. Together, we brought a new partner from St. Louis to engage with regional leaders in mental health and to establish Alive and Well KC in an effort to address the devastating impacts of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) at the individual and community level.
In partnership with several of our Missouri and Kansas funding partners, we commissioned the Research Triangle Institute to conduct what we believe to be the largest Kansas and Missouri consumer experience survey on health care coverage and access in history. This survey will give us a better understanding of the unique challenges people face in accessing affordable health coverage and quality primary and specialty care, mental health services and oral health care. The insights we’ll gain will help us better focus our community investments and communicate more effectively with policymakers.
A special thanks to the Board of Directors, Community Advisory Council and staff of the foundation. They make the work look easy when it is most complex, and are 100 percent behind our mission. To the many community partners serving those who need it most—THANK YOU! You inspire us and strengthen our resolve.
Brenda R. Sharpe
President and CEO