Action Team Quarterly Update

Here is the Quarterly Update on the Spokane Alliance Research Action Teams - the Jobs Team, Health Care Research Action, and the West Central Development Project - for Winter 2019.

Jobs Team

Sheila Collins:

The Spokane Alliance Jobs Team is 10 years old. It is a collaboration of Alliance members and allies in the community who represent public and private unions and members of the faith and education communities.

The Jobs Team currently is negotiating with Spokane Public Facilities District management a shared values statement that supports construction workers and their families.  The Team is asking the District to include language in construction contracts awarded by the District. The proposed contract language would encourage general contractors to use more apprentices and guarantee a minimum set of worker benefits to all workers on PFD projects.

The Team also supported a 2018 campaign to create and pass a City Council ordinance requiring a Safe and Sick Leave employee benefits within City of Spokane.

The Jobs Team lobbied the City of Spokane to create several ordinances including a Quality Jobs Ordinance. This ordinance helps young construction workers, apprentices, qualify for higher wages by increasing their opportunities for the on-the-job hours required to move up the pay scale to journeyman status.  The ordinance sets minimum numbers for apprenticeships to be employed in public works projects.

A second ordinance addresses the evaluation of responsible bidder criteria in awarding public works projects. These criteria can cover many issues including evaluation of bids based on the way employers treat their employees.

The Jobs Team welcomes participation from other Alliance member organizations and allies as we seek to create a robust future for the Spokane region.

Health Care Team

Katie Ann Schmidt:

The Health Care Research Action Team has been doing a lot of listening and focusing since the last Spokane Alliance Delegate Assembly. They started last spring and summer with listening sessions facilitated by Spokane Alliance institutional members. The point of their listening was to discern what health care needs are deemed most urgent by underserved parts of he community.

The Team summarized the issues of concern most often identified in those listening sessions as:  affordability, complexity, and a lack of mental health resources. Just prior to the October Delegate Assembly, the Team reconvened to begin researching potential solutions to these big three issues.

Splitting into smaller teams, the Health Care Research Action Team members spent the fall and early winter of 2018 talking to other groups in our region like CHAS, the Spokane Regional Health District and local urban and rural hospitals and clinics who struggle to deal with issues of affordability, complexity and mental health services. The Team presented results of its needs assessment to Spokane City Council in November.

Some ideas have begun to surface, but they all need more research before more scarce resources are invested in them.  For example, one idea to address the challenge of healthcare and insurance system complexity is to train and deploy navigators to get people through the complicated paperwork.

Exploring affordability solutions had been put on hold until public options for health insurance were fleshed out at state legislative level.  Unfortunately, solutions emerging in the Legislature do not really address to the needs identified by the Team in its spring listening session, so the Team feels it’s back at square one on affordability challenges.

Providing adequate mental health care remains a challenge.  One recommendation that emerged from outreach to communities beyond Alliance member institutions is that we need to find a way to integrate mental health care with a patient’s primary medical care, not deal with it as a separate part of personal healthcare.

What the Health Care Research Team has concluded in general is that a lot more research is required before it proposes the configuration of equipment, expertise and services that will go into the mobile clinic for which WSU medical school was awarded a grant last year.  The Team believes for this reason the mobile health clinic won’t be deployed until next academic year in Fall 2109 or later.

In the interim, the Team proposes to go back to Alliance member Institutions and share with them the ideas that have surfaced since their endorsement by the Delegate Assembly last year.

The Healthcare Research Action Team is asking Alliance institutions to help assemble the smaller pieces of a future more comprehensive solution that will include but not be limited to delivery by the mobile clinic.  Building relationships with potential clients and service providers over the fall and early winter leading up to this February’s Delegate Assembly has laid the ground work for some truly productive problem solving and consensus solutions.  Now is the time to engage these new partners in addressing issues of affordability, complexity and mental health services in small, but meaningful first steps.

There is much more to be done in the months ahead, but the new alliances the Health Care Research Action Team is building and path forward they are beginning to chart promise some workable solution in the coming year.

West Central Neighborhood Team

Woody Garvin:

Zombie homes. No affordable housing.  No sense of empowerment.  These are the challenges the West Central Neighborhood Development Team is confronting with an alliance they are building right now.

Two morning “walkabouts” in the West Central Neighborhood this fall found 35 homes that are either boarded up or have been unoccupied long-term. These homes become the locus of drug abuse and other criminal activity. This tragedy of neglected housing combines with a desperate need for low-income housing for the residents of West Central.

The identification of this housing and safety issue has helped the original team grow new institutional alliances in a neighborhood not accustomed to self-empowerment through relationship building. In fact, the West Central Neighborhood Project may be the first full-on community organizing effort targeting a specific Spokane neighborhood.

The makeup of participants in this effort has been evolving from individuals in a single faith community outside the neighborhood to a growing alliance of neighborhood institutions, including West Central Episcopal Mission, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Salem Lutheran, Branches Church. Manito Presbyterian from outside the neighborhood may also join project. The Team has formed liaison relationships with 15 other community organizations, including Youth Ops, and West Central Community Center.

The Team is passionate about continuous relational meetings. They are doing relationship meetings pretty much all the time. It has been a slow, labor intensive, but very rewarding process that holds great promise of creating a new sense of empowerment in a community that has never felt empowered before now.

The Team feels it is moving from a concept-based project to a research action team effort as a result of this growing institutional commitment and the wider spread sense of personal empowerment that helps to instill in West Central residents.