The current economic climate has created much worry among local health and human service providers. Collaboration among local service agencies will drive future initiatives.
But, in the rush to save banks and now automakers, health care and human services may take a back seat. Compromised human service needs will affect the entire community, not just the indigent.
Some would suggest the economic adjustments should take place without interference. That is fine talk from the ivory tower but offers little solace to the laid off worker bereft of income or to the family about to lose their home. Government has a crucial role to protect community constancy and work toward a fix.
Jobs and important benefits represent more than just money. They are essential for the stability of family life. The pressures and tensions within the family with income loss can fracture relationships and have untold consequences on the family unit. Single moms or dads losing income, while raising offspring, face ruin.
Other consequences include the potential loss of the citizen to voluntary work with schools, churches, youth sports and other activities. The community's viability suffers with job loss as people drift to other areas for work or simply withdraw from local participation due to shame or stress.
I am concerned that the approaches to our current recovery will work through the corporations and not focus on the need for health care, extended unemployment benefits or efforts to keep families in their homes during a troubled economy. Corporate executives have a way of taking care of their own needs first. We need a bottom up resolution to current problems.
Lately, the talk concerns the Big Three automakers: Ford, Chrysler and General Motors. No one can argue that their collapse would have devastating impact on jobs and the economy. However, the big three for me are food, shelter and health care.
Recent studies show many American children go to bed hungry due to poverty, and increasing foreclosures have forced people from their homes. The local Salvation Army's soup kitchen serves increasing numbers of families in need. One must wonder where many of those families go after a hot meal. Communities collaborating with the federal government must address housing needs.
A local minister, the Rev. Dan Campbell, has accepted the challenge of homelessness. He models his plan after two other county efforts using vacant housing for family dwellings. He hopes to end homelessness in Pasco County in the next decade. I would suspect the increasing numbers of evictions and foreclosures will create significant challenges to his efforts. Pasco schools deal with 2,500 homeless children every school day and those numbers are growing.
The abysmal failure to resolve health care for the American people exemplifies health care corporations protecting their turf at the expense of the American people. Money and influence have derailed every effort to reduce administrative costs, address equitable regulation and institute efficiency. I would suggest that health care is a house of cards about to collapse on itself. It may prove to be the next financial catastrophe on the heels of banking and the auto industry.
A simple legislative solution such as the Medicare for all goes nowhere as Americans suffer the consequences of a failing health care system affecting those with and without insurance. Onerous oversight and other cost cutting measures, driven mainly by insurers, have demoralized physicians, hospitals and other providers.
A recent survey of primary care doctors concluded that 50 percent would leave the profession if other options for work were available. The joy of practicing medicine proves victim to a fractured, inefficient and profit-driven system that leaves too many unprotected.
After 50 years of protecting the private health care sector and its profiteering, it is time to support a National Health Plan mandating services for every American. The detractors will continue to scare everyone as to the possibilities of socialized medicine. Frankly, such rhetoric rings hollow when families face financial ruin relating to one hospitalization or health insurers cut costs by denying needed services.
I hope that our elected officials are getting the message that business as usual is undermining this country's wealth and quality of life. Addressing my big three must be the priority. Every community should have in place an effective network to help the homeless with food and shelter, everyone should have a right to equitable health services, and no child should go to bed hungry in America.
Dr. Marc J. Yacht of Hudson is the retired director of the Pasco County Health Department. His Web site is www.marcyacht.com.