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As Affordability Drives Communities East, Central Health Wants Resources To Follow

Eddie Gaspar for KUT
Central Health's community meeting focused on gaps in health care, transportation and food security for families in eastern Travis County as it looks to expand access.

Public health officials say housing prices are forcing low-income and minority communities farther east – and farther away from public resources in Travis County.

Last night, Central Health, the county’s public hospital district, held a community meeting to discuss ongoing efforts to ensure health care resources follow those Latino, African-American and Asian communities eastward into the so-called eastern crescent of Travis County.

Credit Central Health
2017 Central Health Demographic Report.

Ted Burton, Central Health’s communications director, says this migration is mostly driven by economic realities in Austin.

“Record low unemployment rate, a booming economy is good for many – but it’s not good for everyone,” he said. “More and more families living in poverty are being forced to move out of the central city, further and further east in Travis County.”

Local health organizations are preparing for continued growth in places like Pflugerville, Manor and Del Valle over the next several years.  And so, they’ve been working with community groups like the Austin Independent School District, Cap Metro and even local fire departments to come up with ways to quickly get health care resources to those areas.

Jaeson Fournier, the CEO of CommUnityCare says a lot of people in that area already had a hard time getting access to health care. For example, he says only 36 percent of Travis County residents live in the eastern crescent – but 57 percent of the area’s residents are uninsured.

Health officials also noted that the majority of low-income people being forced east are people of color – almost two-thirds of which are Latino. Stephanie Hayden, the interim director of Austin Public Health, says a lot of the solutions will have to come from members from those specific communities.

She says that means health officials are going to have to meet people where they are – like meeting residents at a church, for example.

Cynthia Valadez, who sits on Central Health’s board of managers, emphasized the importance of finding resources for those in the Latino community who may be navigating immigration crackdowns.

Valadez says ICE raids and continued calls for militarization of the border have made communities hesitant to seek services out of fear of deportation.

“I mean those are very serious concerns that we hear on the TV all the time,” she said. “How is it that you are going to address those concerns that are increasing and mounting day by day?”

Credit Central Health
2017 Central Health Demographic Report.

Jaeson Fournier with CommUnityCare says they’ve been helping those populations navigate their rights and finding ways to encourage them to seek services.

Central Health officials say helping residents in the eastern crescent of Travis County is going to be an ongoing project that is going to take a group effort.

Ashley Lopez covers politics and health care. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AshLopezRadio.
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