Budget cuts bring public safety concerns

As a believer in public participation, I hope everyone attended the public hearings held throughout Metro Louisville outlining the burden placed on our city due to unaddressed pension needs. If you did not, I suspect that you are confused by conflicting comments about the gap, what can be cut, and how difficult this will be.

Natalie Harris | Courtesy Coalition for the Homeless

The week after Metro Council voted not to address any of the looming $35 million deficit with an insurance premium tax increase, several members stated they plan to create a leaner budget without making any sacrifices to public safety and these cuts will make the city stronger.

This makes me believe those making such statements either do not understand what portion of the budget funds public safety or do not know what public safety looks like.

The Coalition for the Homeless represents 30 member agencies and partners with dozens more in efforts to address the results of system failures that cause homelessness in our city.

We also support the efforts of those who work tirelessly to address these gaps in our broken systems to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place, because we know that prevention work is less costly than the homeless services, drug treatment, incarceration, chronic health and eviction services that are being sought by more people than our community can address.

We work hand in hand with local police, Public Works and Public Health who all do amazing work to address a rising drug crisis, disease outbreaks and increased refuge on our streets resulting from increased street homelessness without more resources. These services are invaluable and literally, save lives. But, so does homeless shelter and services that are all public safety.

I am just one of many who provide public health and safety services and must say we cannot afford to lose these services. They include Police, Public Health and code enforcement. But, they also include Resilience and Community Services programs and funding that maintain homeless shelter, outreach, evidenced-based drug treatment and prevention.

I am asking those who believe in public safety to contact your Metro Council members on April 26 to make it clear we cannot afford to sacrifice public safety and that includes shelter and services. Now is the time if we wish to be heard before the budget is set because I do believe in public participation. Natalie Harris

Recent child abuse rankings and prevention tips

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and a recent federal report shows Kentucky and Indiana have the highest rates of abuse in the country  Alarming? Yes. Preventable? 100%. There are some contributing factors at play here: opioids, lack of affordable housing, public transportation, and some other arguably social public health ills/statistics. Awareness and prevention efforts could also be a part of these figures.

Leigh Ann Yost

Many people don’t realize Kentucky is a mandatory reporting” state —meaning if you are reading this, live in Kentucky, and are over 18, you are mandated to report child abuse. #SeeSomethingSaySomething. Wouldn’t you want that for your child?

What if we stopped judging people and started helping them? What if we improved our community to the point where CPS/DCBS was not needed? Easier said than done, sure. CPS’s No. 1 goal is keeping families together, so “shoot the messenger” here, but what if they didn’t need to be called?

When kids learn that their body is theirs and theirs alone, that no one is allowed to touch them anywhere that makes them feel uncomfortable – including their parents, siblings, and other family members – they learn valuable skills that can last them a lifetime.

Saying “NO!” to uncomfortable touches or feelings, getting away and telling a trusted adult is something they will always need to know, even as adults. Consider the statistics from Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ‘Child Maltreatment’ report, 2017: One in 10 kids will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday (1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys); 90% of those kids will be abused by someone they know and trust; 30% of those are family members. This is preventable!

Organizations that service youth on any capacity should require policies in place where no adult is ever left alone with a child, among other necessary considerations. Churches should understand that mandatory reporting is the law, not handled “within the church,” and consider when older youth are left to “manage” younger children. Every adult could stand to recognize the five signs of sexual abuse and the four different types of child abuse. It does not always look like you’d think.

The power of awareness and education on child abuse prevention to this community is a public health necessity, and I’m glad I am part of the solution. As adults, we are responsible for all the children in the community. They all grow up to be adults in this same community. Leigh Ann Yost