Aldermen Urge Mayor Lightfoot to Keep First 100 Days Pledge or Risk Department of Public Health Grants

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local News

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local News

By: Ashmar Mandou

Aldermen are calling on Mayor Lori Lightfoot to re- evaluate the HIV/STI Bureau’s recent funding decisions that resulted in an “inequitable distribution of resources favoring large institutions over agencies serving South and West side communities.” This month CDPH announced the results of a competitive funding cycle that reconfigures the HIV portfolio, including both prevention and care services, with the result that less than five percent of the total reaches Latino and African- American led and serving organizations on the South and West sides of Chicago.

“We can only have a ‘Healthy Chicago’ when we have empowered and sustainable communities,” according to Juan M. Calderon, Board of Health Member.  Alderman Roberto Maldonado (26th), Chairman of the Latino Caucus, stressed that the best way for medical and public health providers to address health inequities is to be active members of the communities they are serving. “Health is a combination of all of our experiences but treating the whole person starts with all the systems – economy, food, housing, education, family and safety – that shape a black and brown person’s experience,” according to Maldonado. “Our community providers are the best positioned to do that and we should be providing them with more resources, not bringing in external contractors that have never stepped foot into our neighborhoods.” 

Under the previous administration, Alderman Raymond Lopez worked with the Department of Public Health to expand its footprint in underserved communities such as Englewood, New City and Back of the Yards. He expressed his concern by the lack of movement from Mayor Lightfoot. 

“On May 21st our Mayor announced she would conduct a nationwide search for a new Public Health Commissioner. Today marks Day 101 and there has yet to be any movement toward finding a commissioner committed to protecting the African American and Latino communities of Chicago from HIV/STI’s,” said Lopez. 

The City Council’s Latino Caucus urges Mayor Lightfoot to begin a robust, national search for a Health Commissioner. “An interim place holder can no longer occupy this critical role. Crucial Latino and African American institutions are threatened with closure, while agencies based outside these communities are awarded contracts. It is paramount that the Public Health Commissioner has the cultural competency to address the racial, gender, sexual and cultural diversity of Chicago’s communities.”

Ald. Lopez and his colleagues are prepared to act legislatively to motivate the administration. “If Mayor Lightfoot does not keep her pledge for a nationally-open process, focusing on these funding disparities, we are prepared to introduce an order to the Department of Public Health on September 18, 2019 requiring the department withhold approximately $40 million in HIV/AIDS dollars until a commissioner has been selected from a national search effort focused on bringing equity to communities of color.” 

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