Taken from the May/June 2016 issue of the Women's Health Activist Newsletter.
RWV was founded in 2007 as a collaborative initiative between the NWHN and our co-founders at the MergerWatch Project of Community Catalyst, and the Black Women’s Health Imperative.
RWV brings together national, state, and local health advocates who are committed to making health reform’s promise a reality for women; for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) people; and for their families. Our field network’s 31 Regional Coordinators (RCs) work in 28 states, representing their communities’ interests and concerns as the ACA is fully implemented. This article introduces a great new RWV resource and describes our newest RC, in Tennessee; the organizing efforts of our Georgia RC; and expanded efforts in Arizona to work with migrant, LGBTQ organizations. We’ll feature various RCs’ important efforts and describe new RWV developments throughout the year.
New Resource: Cover Our Families Advocacy Toolkit
Expanded Medicaid eligibility is critical to ensure low-income people’s access to health coverage and services. But, because 19 states still refuse to expand Medicaid, 3 million people face enormous barriers to accessing the health care they need. Women (particularly women of color) and LGBTQ people are disproportionately affected by this Medicaid coverage gap.
In response, RWV developed a new resource, the Cover Our Families Community Organizing & Advocacy Toolkit. The Toolkit is designed to help RCs and their allies educate and mobilize people in states that have not expanded Medicaid, and change the situation. The Toolkit’s four sections include background information on the coverage gap’s impact, tips on messaging and communication, Consumer Health Information and other resources, guidance on planning and hosting outreach events, and sample exercises and games to engage event participants. The Toolkit is supplemented with a separate Legislative Guide that contains advocacy tips and a sample letter to legislators about this issue’s importance.
You can get a copy of the free resource at www.raisingwomensvoices.net/download-the-cof-toolkit. If you’re interested in organizing an event or getting additional materials, please contact Cecilia Sáenz Becerra at [email protected].
SisterReach: RWV’s Newest Regional Coordinator from Tennessee
In September 2015, RWV welcomed its newest RC, SisterReach, a Memphis-based grassroots organization. Founded in 2011 by Cherisse Scott, SisterReach’s primary focus is to empower and mobilize women and girls about reproductive and sexual health, so they can make informed decisions about their health care, and become advocates for themselves and their families. SisterReach provides sexual and reproductive health education in order to support women and girls to lead healthy lives, have healthy families, and live in healthy communities. As an RC, SisterReach’s advocacy work now includes efforts to expand Medicaid and address other ACA implementation issues.
Organizing to Expand Medicaid in Georgia
Georgia’s RC, the Feminist Women’s Health Center (FWHC), has been part of RWV since 2013. Kwajelyn Jackson, RWV’s contact in Atlanta, created many effective organizing strategies for FWHC and played a key role in shaping the Toolkit materials so others can replicate her success. FWHC’s strategies include hosting house parties that incorporate educational activities to help community members understand the impact of Georgia’s political climate — including the legislature’s lack of action on closing the Medicaid gap, which leaves many low-income Georgians without affordable coverage. A majority of house party attendees have signed up to get involved in the FWHC’s advocacy work on this issue. The FWHC also held a successful advocacy day at the Georgia State Capital in January, which was attended by 10 state legislators. FWHC actively collaborates with partners in the Cover Georgia Coalition, the Health Advocates Coalition, and the ProGeorgia Progressive State Voices Table. The groups supported the “Expand Medicaid Now Act” (House Bill 823), which would have closed the coverage gap in Georgia. Although the bill didn’t pass, its introduction provided a vehicle for educating policymakers and community members about the issue.
Stretching Far & Wide in Arizona
In Arizona, RWV is working with two RCs focused on LGBTQ migrant rights: Arcoíris Liberation Team and Arizona Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project (AZ QUIP). These organizations promote the liberation of queer and trans migrant communities both inside and outside immigration detention. The groups have expanded their work to include health care, economic support, and housing for trans and queer communities of color. RWV is supporting these RCs and providing technical assistance to help them get more low-income LGBTQ people and immigrant women covered under the ACA and the state’s expanded Medicaid program, called the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS). In September, Arcoíris Liberation Team and AZ QUIP launched a unique new program, a free health care clinic that provides undocumented and uninsured LGBTQ people with access to affordable health services.
To get RWC’s weekly updates, sign up on our website. You can also get instant updates on our work and the issues we follow via Facebook (search for “Raising Women’s Voices”) and Twitter @RWV4HealthCare.
Cecilia Sáenz Becerra is a Program Officer at Groundswell Fund and a former Regional Field Manager for the NWHN’s Raising Women’s Voices initiative. With over a decade of activism for reproductive justice, Cecilia continues to work for women’s and transgender rights by co-founding Repeal Coalition and by serving on the board of directors for Access Reproductive Care – Southeast.