Gun violence is one of the top healthcare crises occurring in our nation today. The reminders of this crisis are becoming too frequent and costing the country the lives of innocent mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, husbands, wives, grandparents and even our children.
The recent drive-by shooting in Odessa and Midland, Texas, a shooting in a historic district of Dayton, Ohio, a massacre at Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and the gun violence we see daily in St. Louis – including the murder of 15 children during the summer of 2019 – prompts me, as the chief executive officer of CareSTL Health to highlight the dire need to strengthen our healthcare systems, to advocate for Medicaid expansion for Missouri, and to continue to fight for much-needed funds for the opioid epidemic.
The clinical staff at CareSTL Health serves patients who are directly affected by violence. There are rare cases where the violence occurs at our front door and we are forced to provide care until police and paramedics arrive. Several years ago, our nurses ran out into the streets of Dr. Martin Luther King Drive to care for a young mother who was shot as she attempted to drive away from a conflict. The woman’s car crashed in front of our health center. Our staff assisted the victim’s two-year-old child who was also in the vehicle at the time of the shooting. The team worked through a scene of mass chaos and devastation without flinching.
The physical and emotional toll of the killing of helpless children in our city and for those living in crime-ridden neighborhoods is incalculable. According to an analysis provided by Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, “The Economic Cost of Gun Violence in Missouri,” the directly measurable cost of gun violence in Missouri exceeds $1.9 billion, with a direct cost to taxpayers of approximately $384 million.
A healthy and educated public is a critical element to safe and productive communities. We must be the advocates for our people and our communities. Healthcare initiatives are being debated as we speak. The funding for Community Health Centers will expire September 30, and millions of Americans will lose access to much-needed primary and preventive health care services if funding is lost. To help Community Health Centers, please tell Congress to Reauthorize CHC Funding now (https://www.hcadvocacy.org/takeaction/ltfemail).
Medicaid expansion is still needed in Missouri and you can support by visiting www.healthcareformissouri.org. The Affordable Care Act should be strengthened and supported because it has allowed working-class people access to care they could not otherwise afford.
The City of St. Louis is in pain and is seeing the results of trauma from gun violence. A study by The American Psychological Association found approximately half (50 percent) of all individuals will be exposed to at least one traumatic event in their lifetime. The impact of gun violence is far reaching. In addition to the victims, the nurses, physicians, police and emergency responders are also psychologically affected. This is just one reason why we have to push for healthcare policies and initiatives that work proactively.
We thank Senator Blunt, U.S. Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay and St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson – as well as organizations such as Missouri Primary Care, Integrated Health Network and the Regional Health Commission – who have been on the forefront of fighting and supporting the healthcare needs of their communities.
We believe at CareSTL Health that healthcare is a right, not a privilege. We’re in a state of emergency, and as leaders, CEOs, and advocates we must be the voice for our communities. It is time to come together to save our children, families and communities. It is time to show the residents of our community that we care.
Angela Clabon is the chief executive officer of CareSTL Health.