Hamilton Co. Board of Commissioners in planning stages of declaring racism a public health crisis

Hamilton Co. discusses moving forward in the midst of protests

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Commissioner Victoria Parks said the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners is in the planning stages of declaring racism a public health crisis.

“The black community is facing two pandemics - the coronavirus and racism. Both are extremely deadly,” she said.

Parks said protests must be replaced with policy change.

“African Americans have struggled since we’ve gotten here. We need your help. We need you to raise your children in a manner where they don’t feel superior. It is time to dismantle a system that leads to poverty,” she said.

On Friday, Rep. Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati) signed onto a House resolution that would designate racism as a public health crisis, echoing similar calls in Cleveland and Franklin County.

“There are people in this country and this state who have worse outcomes because of the color of their skin,” she said. This is not just a public health crisis; it’s an economic crisis, a public safety crisis, a housing crisis, a crisis of caring, and a failure of our systems.”

The House resolution calls for the following actions:

  • Establishing a glossary of terms and definitions concerning racism and health equity.
  • Assert that racism is a public health crisis affecting our entire community.
  • Incorporating educational efforts to address and dismantle racism, and expand understanding of racism and how racism affects individual and population health.
  • Promoting community engagement, actively engaging citizens on issues of racism, and providing tools to engage actively and authentically with communities of color.
  • Committing to review all portions of codified ordinances with a racial equity lens.
  • Committing to conduct all human resources, vendor selection, and grant management activities with a racial equity lens including reviewing all internal policies and practices such as hiring, promotions, leadership appointments, and funding.
  • Promoting racially equitable economic and workforce development practices.
  • Promoting and encouraging all policies that prioritize the health of people of color, and support local, state, regional, and federal initiatives that advance efforts to dismantle systematic racism and mitigating exposure to adverse childhood experience and trauma Training of all elected officials, staff, funders and grantees on workplace biases and how to mitigate them.
  • Partnering and building alliances with local organizations that have a legacy and track record of confronting racism.
  • Encouraging community partners and stakeholders in the education, employment, housing, and criminal justice and safety arenas to recognize racism as a public health crisis and to activate the above items.
  • Securing adequate resources to successfully accomplish the above activities.

Parks said details for the Hamilton County declaration should be out in about a month.

She is working with Franklin County and collaborating with local stakeholders on policy responses to the crisis.

The fifth day of protests continued Tuesday as demonstrators made their way back to the Hamilton County Courthouse in downtown Cincinnati.

Most of the protesters dispersed as the city’s curfew took effect at 8 p.m.

Commissioner Denise Driehaus also outlined the county’s plan to spend its Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding.

The funding plan has four main categories:

  • $36.5M for public health
  • $8.25M for aid to vulnerable populations
  • $49.5M for community and economic assistance
  • $41.25M for county operational response

According to the Ohio Department of Health, there are 2,721 coronavirus cases and 156 deaths.

Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman said the numbers are flattening.

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