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Fresno County Votes to Invest in Health

By the Community Alliance

In January of this year, Fresno County’s healthcare safety net, the Medically Indigent Services Program (MISP) was on the brink of being completely dismantled due to lack of funds. For those of you not familiar with MISP, according to the Community Medical Center, “MISP provides acute care for low-income, uninsured California adults between the ages of 21 and 64 who are not eligible for Medi-Cal.”

Here in Fresno, there are about 19,000 people, most of whom are homeless and undocumented, who depend on this program. Taking away MISP would be a huge blow to a population already marginalized in the city. It is for this reason that community groups and members did not take this lightly.

In an attempt to save MISP, the Western Center for Law and Poverty and the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation filed an injunction on behalf of Clinica Sierra Vista, which, unfortunately, was later denied. However, the fight did not end there.

Fresno Building Healthy Communities (BHC), a coalition of service and advocacy groups striving to build a healthier and better Fresno, particularly in the central, southeast and southwest areas, marched on and fought long and hard to make sure MISP did not go away. From speaking during long and exhausting Fresno County Board meetings to countless media advocacy, the group made sure the Board of Supervisors and the community at-large knew what was at stake.

Oday Guerrero, a local community activist, had this to say about the importance of MISP, “I’m coming here as an immigrant woman myself who knows first-hand what it’s like to not have health insurance…With everything that’s going on right now, I think it’s super important that more community members, first, become informed with what’s going on and, secondly, become involved with the efforts to keep this program.”

Guerrero went on to note the importance of those directly affected to be in the decision-making process, “The people who are directly affected by this, mainly people who are undocumented and using MISP, I hope more of those folks are at the table, aside from the supervisors and advocates.”

Maria, an individual advocate who has a tumor in her breast and is anemic, was appalled by the way some of the supervisors talked about recipients of MISP, “They [Board of Supervisors] kept referring to us as people who expect things for free and don’t assume the responsibility of being undocumented. They made it seem that it’s our fault we haven’t taken care of our [documentation] and our fault that we have don’t have the healthcare we need…it’s really not that simple.”

BHC’s efforts and those of community members like Guerrero and Maria did not go in vain. On Nov. 4, in a 3-2 vote, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors voted to accept $5.5 million to provide short-term specialty healthcare to the homeless and undocumented residents in Fresno County. A great way to end the year, but it’s not over.

For more information on this and how you can get involved, contact Augie Blancas at 559-473-6897 or ablancas@fresnobhc.org.

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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