December 02, 2016 — By holson

by Marissa Lee

At the November 17, 2016 Institute for Community Partnership (ICP) Town Hall Meeting, two local organizations – Reach Out and Inland Congregations United for Change (ICUC) – shared their innovative approaches to community empowerment in the Inland Empire.

“Plan Now. Live Well. Serve Here.”

This message shared by Diana Fox, the executive director of Reach Out, underscores the work of Reach Out’s Inland Coalition in developing and sustaining the local healthcare workforce. With a 14% projected growth in the Inland Empire’s healthcare sector coupled with an expected population growth of half a million by 2020, the Inland Coalition motivates Inland Empire’s students and professionals alike to pursue education and fill the local health profession needs.

The Inland Coalition seamlessly weaves together health, education, and economic development through their innovative model. The Inland Coalition has several goals, most significantly bringing together local partners in the healthcare field, ensuring a diverse and capable workforce, and providing healthcare infrastructure and data. In fact, its Healthcare Workforce Intelligence Reports are some of the only research of its kind in the Inland Empire.

The Inland Coalition’s work is not only unique, but innovative as well. Their successful model of piloting, tool-kitting, and training the community has gained recognition at the state level.  During the meeting, Fox highlighted their work in addressing regional health career workforce needs by targeting “leaks in the pipeline” from middle school to graduate level education. These programs include teacher externships to provide hands on healthcare experience teachers can bring back to their classroom, junior high and high school programs promoting aspiring health professionals, and financial support for San Manuel Gateway College students pursing higher education in the healthcare field.

Changing the Narrative

Addressing community empowerment at the grassroots level, Tom Dolan, the executive director of Inland Congregations United for Change (ICUC), shared how faith traditions, community organizing, and public policy advocacy can strengthen families and improve communities. Drawing from oral tradition, ICUC believes that changing the narrative, changes perspectives, and changes communities. From campaigns to street walks to voter engagement, ICUC empowers communities by teaching them how political systems can lead to systemic injustice and how collective action can address these issues.

Dolan highlighted a local initiative, Operation CeaseFire – a highly successful initiative created to address gun violence around the nation. Started in Boston in 1995, this gun violence program has been replicated in major cities across the United States. ICUC has been integral in promoting this program in San Bernardino, a city with one of the highest homicide rates in the nation. Operation Ceasefire offers housing, drug rehabilitation, mental health services, and a wide variety of other support services to those with a background of gun violence if they choose to lay down their weapons. Not only has this program saved lives, but it saves money as well. Dolan noted that approximately $1.5 million is saved for every homicide prevented.

In addition, ICUC engages the communities which are most directly impacted by gun violence through community marches. These marches communicate a different narrative of community mobilization and garner government attention for Operation CeaseFire in these neighborhood. Dolan emphasized the power of these Public Health walks to enable local communities to rebuild and effectively address issues in solidarity. As Dolan stated, “Those who are most effective in changing issues are those closest to the issue.”

From pipeline programs to community collective action, the ICP Town Hall Meeting provided a fresh look on community empowerment in the Inland Empire. 

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