Governor Pete Ricketts, Directors Smith, Goins and Frakes: Formally working with African-American & North Omaha communities
Published: June 15, 2020
10 Point Plan officially approved and released on May 22, 2020
Governor Pete Ricketts agrees to partner with African-American and North Omaha communities to prevent the spread of COVID 19 and address economic gaps.
A group of leaders representing hundreds of African-American led and North Omaha organizations, businesses, neighborhoods, churches, faith communities and thousands of residents have met with Governor Pete Ricketts and key department leaders over the past two months to identify ways to work together to prevent the spread of the COVID 19 Coronavirus and address long-term economic issues.
Governor Ricketts recognizes that in Douglas County a disproportionate number African-Americans, Hispanic/Latinos, Asians and other people of color have been severely impacted by the Coronavirus.
The North Omaha and South Omaha communities have the highest number of documented cases in Douglas County.
The leadership groups and Governor Ricketts have also discussed the economic gaps, health disparities and underlying conditions that existed well before the virus and in some cases have been in place for decades.
Both groups acknowledge some important progress has been made during the previous 10 years, but much work lies ahead to fully close economic and health gaps.
Building on successful gains made in Omaha through collective work and the historic collaboration now occurring in North Omaha, Governor Ricketts and his team have agreed to work with the community in the following specific areas including, but not limited to:
Tracking of data by race, ethnicity and geography; assuring residents with COVID related illness have access to health care; expanding testing efforts; increasing access to masks; partnering with community-based health organizations and entities; engaging with North Omaha media; sharing plans designed to prevent the spread of the virus in prisons and jails; and assuring organizations and businesses in areas hit hardest by the virus receive equitable funding from federal, state and county allocations and investments.
Governor Ricketts has assigned Directors Dannette Smith – Health and Human Services, Anthony Goins – Economic Development and Scott Frakes – Corrections, to work with the African-American and North Omaha communities.
For more details, please review the 10 Point Action Plan, Commitments and Initial Actions. (Below)
Official Press Release (May 22, 2020)
Gov. Ricketts Highlights Progress on Partnership with Omaha Communities on Coronavirus Response
LINCOLN – Today, Governor Ricketts provided an update on the State of Nebraska’s efforts to help communities in Omaha combat coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Since early May, Governor Ricketts has been engaging leaders in North and South Omaha during the current public health emergency to help slow the spread of the virus.
“Throughout the country, our minority populations have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus ,” said Governor Ricketts. “We are working with leaders in communities of color throughout the state to ensure all Nebraskans have access the health care, education, and resources for this public health emergency. Thank you to the leaders in North and South Omaha for working with the State to help address the issues that are most prevalent in their communities.”
The ten-point plan includes the following initiatives:
· Data Reporting: Tracking health data related to coronavirus based on race, ethnicity, and geography across the State.
o The State is working with local public health departments to track cases by race and ethnicity in statewide data reporting.
· Access to Care: Working with health care leaders in the community and with the State of Nebraska to ensure that no one is denied coronavirus related health services.
o Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has been working with healthcare providers in the community to assure them that they will be reimbursed for coronavirus related expenses. The Governor’s Office is working with community leaders to inform the public that testing is free even if an individual does not have health insurance and that no one will be denied treatment for coronavirus because of an inability to pay.
· Supporting Community Providers: Providing resources through healthcare facilities in North and South Omaha.
o The State is engaging directly with Charles Drew and One World Health to ensure testing and other resources are being provided to the community.
· Testing: Expanding testing in Omaha.
o In addition to working with community federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), the State is deploying Test Nebraska testing sites in Omaha to increase testing capacity and assist in alleviating the burden on local healthcare providers in the community.
· Masks: Increasing availability of masks for the community.
o DHHS and Governor’s Office are partnering with community leaders to increase messaging regarding the importance of wearing masks when out in public.
· Tracking Funding: Providing and tracking State and Federal coronavirus related funding for North and South Omaha.
o The State is working with Omaha leaders to establish a guideline for tracking coronavirus related funding as it relates to the communities of North and South Omaha.
· Corrections: Updating the community on the State’s plan to prevent spread of coronavirus in the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS).
o NDCS Director Scott Frakes participated in a call with Omaha leaders to address their concerns regarding the virus’ impact on the State’s correctional system.
· Unemployment: Assuring timely response regarding unemployment applications.
o Nebraska Department of Labor (NDOL) Commissioner John Albin and NDOL have improved access to unemployment benefits by contracting with North End Teleservices to create a new call center for unemployment benefit claimants, with multiple bilingual customer service representatives available. NDOL has provided additional access to the unemployment program by teaming with Metro Community College (MCC) to create an access point at the Fort Dodge campus of MCC.
· Public Awareness: Collaborating with the Omaha community to expand messaging and education regarding coronavirus.
o The Governor’s Office has been working directly with the Black Media Collaborative/North Omaha Media Collaborative to deploy coronavirus messaging as part of a month-long communications campaign. The Governor’s Office is also working with Spanish media outlets to get messaging to those in which English is not their primary language.
· Future Growth: Partnering with leaders to address long-standing economic and health issues in North and South Omaha.
o Governor Ricketts has directed Nebraska Department of Economic Development Director Tony Goins and DHHS CEO Dannette Smith to work closely with the communities of North and South Omaha to address these issues. To date, task forces have been established that involve state, local, and industry leaders to focus on both of these areas.
The North Omaha groups consist of hundreds of organizations, businesses, churches, neighborhood associations, media outlets and others representing and serving thousands of residents.
10 Point Action Plan to Prevent the Spread of COVID 19 and Work to Begin Addressing Short-term and Long-term Economic and Health Issues in North Omaha.
Developed with North Omaha Leaders/COVID Task Forces in partnership with Governor Ricketts and leaders from State Departments (April – May 2020; approved May 15, 2020)
1. Tracking data by race, ethnicity and geography across the state in a similar format to what Douglas County is currently implementing.
Commitment: Governor Ricketts agreed to have the Department of Health and Human Services to work with county officials to collect this important data.
Initial Action: The first report was released on May 30, 2020. Douglas County has gathered and reported data by race, ethnicity and geography from the beginning.
2. Working with Health systems CEO’s, DHHS and others to assure that no one facing Coronavirus issues is denied health services during this time.
Commitment: Governor Ricketts agreed to have his team work with CEO’s and other health organizations to assure that no Nebraskan will be turned away from health services related to COVID. And, Governor Ricketts made the commitment that health organization would be reimbursed for services provided to those with COVID related sickness.
Initial Actions: Meetings have been held with health organizations and this message has been communicated. No Nebraskan will be refused access to healthcare related to COVID 19. Cares funding also assures no one will be turned away because of COVID 19.
3. Provide funding to support Charles Drew Health Center, One World Health Center, Center for Holistic Development and North Omaha Area Health clinic who all provide culturally specific and valuable leadership and health services in North and South Omaha. The funding opportunities will address physical and mental health.
Commitment: Governor Ricketts agreed to identify funding opportunities for communities most impacted by COVID 19 including North and South Omaha.
Initial Actions: Governor Ricketts and his team are identifying opportunities that can be connected to North and South Omaha and other areas severely impacted by COVID 19. Follow up meetings are scheduled to identify and secure specific funding through grant application processes and direct allocation to communities most impacted. Several meetings have been held with HHS Mental Health team. A proposal is under consideration by DHHS.
4. Increase the access to testing. Reinforce the need for testing.
Commitment: Governor Ricketts agreed to the importance of expanded testing.
Initial Actions: Governor Ricketts launched TestNebraska, a major statewide initiative which will help identify geographic areas to focus on and lead to contact tracing to prevent further spread. The state of Nebraska will partner with Charles Drew and One World in the local community. The One World implementation started on Thursday, May 14th. Charles Drew implementation has also started.
5. Push for more masks and face coverings to be made available in North and South Omaha.
Commitment: Governor Ricketts agreed to support efforts in Douglas County to make more masks available.
Initial Actions: Douglas County and others have made over 26,000 masks available within the past two weeks for North and South Omaha. African-American and North Omaha leaders will be working with Douglas County and other to make more masks available.
6. Identify the funding allocated for Nebraska through the Federal Cares program which has made $1.099 billion available to the State and $160 million to Douglas County to address COVID 19 issues. Assure that North and South Omaha receive equitable funding from Federal and State sources. And, use scorecards for tracking and reporting purposes.
Commitment: The State has agreed to track by category and department the amount allocated and invested/spent with North and South Omaha organizations.
Initial Actions: A draft tracking report has been created and a diversity and inclusion scorecard. The State of Nebraska has identified plans to allocate the funds by category.
7. Formally address the plan to prevent spread of COVID in State Corrections without sharing sensitive safety procedures.
Commitment: Governor Ricketts agreed to have Director Scott Frakes share plans without sensitive safety procedures. Governor Ricketts also committed to testing incarcerated individuals if an incident occurs.
Initial Actions: A follow-up conference call with State Corrections Director Scott Frakes and DC Jail Director Michael Myers was very productive. As of June 13, 2020, nine state employees have been diagnosed with COVID and have been quarantined. One incarcerated individuals has tested positive in State Corrections. All institutions have comprehensive plans in place. As of June 11th, all incarcerated individuals can be tested within the state corrections system.
8. Assure that unemployment claims are met on a timely basis.
Commitment: Governor Ricketts and his team were already working to increase staffing to support faster service. Staff has increased from 35 to over 160. Governor Ricketts was open to a proposal to help increase capacity in Douglas County with emphasis on Heartland Workforce Solutions.
Initial Actions: Staff has been increased from 35 to over 160. Barriers are being reduced. Governor Ricketts is considering additional funding to support Heartland Workforce Solutions to assist with unemployment work in North and South Omaha.
9. Working with North and South Omaha media to spread the Stay Home, Stay Safe and Support the Village campaign which also incorporates the Governor’s six point plan to Stay Healthy. (campaign should include physical and mental health)
Commitment: Governor Ricketts agreed to support PSA’s and personal participation with radio interviews. The communications team is reviewing COVID 19 funding to assess the ability to invest in education campaigns. Governor Ricketts also committed to assuring communications materials for education, resources and promotional materials will be culturally specific.
Initial Actions: Governor Ricketts has been a special guest on three African-American radio stations in North Omaha. In addition, the State of Nebraska has actively participated with the communications strategy in North Omaha and South Omaha. The leadership group working with Black/North Omaha media and Hispanic/South Omaha media are presenting a long-term communications and outreach plan. The State of Nebraska has started advertising campaigns on the three radio stations.
10. In addition to the 10 Point Plan, Governor Ricketts and his team will work with North and South Omaha on an expanded short-term and long-term economic and health transformation strategy to address long-standing issues and gaps. Make the state of Nebraska a thriving and prosperous state in every county for all people including all races, ethnicities and zip codes in rural and urban communities with a special and intense focus on North and South Omaha which have suffered decades of health disparities driven by socio-economic issues.
Commitment: Governor Ricketts agreed to partner with the North and South Omaha leadership groups to develop and implement strategies to address short-term and long-term economic and health issues that addressed before COVID 19. Some of the immediate needs are directly related to the success of small businesses.
Initial Actions: Governor Ricketts and Tony Goins, Director of Economic Development for the State of Nebraska have created task forces to specifically address COVID related business issues.
Governor Ricketts has agreed to on-going planning and strategy sessions to work with the North Omaha and South Omaha leadership groups to implement targeted strategies.
Governor Ricketts is working with African-American leaders to implement the programs and Anthony Goins, Director of Economic Development, Dannette Smith, Director of Health and Human Services and Scott Frakes, Director of Corrections are working directly with leaders to move things forward.
Ted Lampkin: Rising to Meet the Challenge
Charles Drew Health Center
Growing up down the street from Charles Drew Health Center, Inc., it was no question for Ted Lampkin to give back to the community that helped raise him.
“I’m passionate about public health because I am a product of public health services. Coming up, my family and I used the services at Charles Drew.”
As the Associate Director of Behavioral Health Services, Ted has been on the front-line teaching and training team members in new approaches to behavioral health. It’s no surprise that when COVID-19 struck, Ted was front and center.
“My role was to help transition the Behavioral Health department from doing face-to-face therapy to telehealth therapy.”
While COVID-19 began to escalate, increasing evidence highlighted racial and ethnic minority groups are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
“We made it easy for the patients, providing traditional face-to-face, telehealth, and when needed telephonic sessions. A lot of patients had anxiety about COVID-19 and being in the middle of a pandemic, in addition to their other stressers.”
“The benefit of telehealth is we can continue to provide quality service during a pandemic. You take out the barriers to care with telehealth.”
Brenda Avant: Providing Quality Healthcare in the Midst of COVID-19
Charles Drew Health Center
As a North Omaha native, Family Nurse Practitioner, Brenda Avant, understands educating her patients about their healthcare choices is a foundational principle to accessing safe and quality healthcare.
When the pandemic shut down Omaha metro schools, Brenda and the team members at Charles Drew Health Center, Inc. School-based Health Centers had to switch gears. While still providing in-person care, the SBHC Medical providers began utilizing telehealth to remain in contact with their patients.
“The telehealth program at Charles Drew really grew at that time. As Medical providers, we were able to continue serving our student patients through telehealth. The parents really enjoyed it because they felt even through a pandemic their child’s provider is still in tune with their needs.”
As the pandemic surged, the healthcare inequalities within the American health system began to come to the foreground. “It made me proud to see that Charles Drew was a front runner in COVID-19. The community was looking to us to help guide them through.”
“Charles Drew made it very easy for the population we serve to continue receiving care. We may be small, but we are mighty.”
Larry Duncan: Resiliency in the Face of a Crisis
Charles Drew Health Center
Hailing from the south side of Chicago, Larry Duncan, Director of Behavioral Health Services at Charles Drew Health Center, Inc. has always had a passion for helping others. “My passion, at first, started off with a drug and alcohol emphasis based on my own experiences and knowledge. As I grew and received more education, mental health became the next umbrella. It rests with my understanding that there are unique issues that affect black and brown people, and people who are marginalized.”
Within the first year serving at Charles Drew, Larry faced his biggest challenge yet, leading a team while in the mists of coronavirus. “The number one thing we did quickly was become active.” As COVID-19 began to highlight the care gaps within marginalized communities, the Behavioral Health team at Charles Drew looked to bridge those gaps within the community.
“For our population it was a dual threat. On one side of the coin, the crisis becomes an additional stress to a population of people who already live with stress. On the flip side of the coin, the lack of community and social interaction increased depression, anxiety, and a sense of hopelessness.”
The message was simple, but practical: Practice the Five Cs–Connection, Commitment, Communion, Contain, and Continue.
Looking back, one of the greatest strengths of Charles Drew, in Larry’s eyes, was the ability to remain active. While most were waiting, frozen in their activity, Charles Drew advanced forward.
“We got better and better at it. We were doing testing on the front line when testing was just starting. As masks began to be required, we were handing them out to the community members in need. Whatever needed to be done in the face of this virus, we did it.”