Letter to the editor: Prioritizing social determinants of health is more important than ever
Fifth Judicial District attorney Democratic candidate
COVID-19 has had a devastating and far-reaching impact on the community. Fortunately, many states are seeing a decrease in infection and an increase in vital medical resources needed to support those who do fall ill. This is wonderful news. However, the past 10 weeks has had a great toll. Unemployment rates are approaching levels consistent with the Great Depression, alcohol and substance use is on the rise, and overall stress resulting from isolation, closures, fear, future uncertainty and the balance of maintaining existing work with child demands is extremely high.
Research on social determinants of health shows us the importance and the interconnection of physical health, behavioral health, poverty, unemployment and poor housing. These important factors are not only social determinants of health. They are determinants of crime.
Research has found that deaths from suicide and drug overdose tend to raise and fall with rates of unemployment. Additionally, unemployment rates consistently have been linked with rates of crime. Our Fifth Judicial District has experienced at least three suicides within the past month, and thousands of residents are applying for financial support.
Given our potential behavioral health epidemic within the pandemic, it is important to prioritize crucial community services that can serve as protective factors. This includes support for programs such as Building Hope Summit County that provide direct access to behavioral health services. This includes support for programs that encourage protective adult relationships with youth, such as Mountain Mentors. This includes support for organizations such as the Family & Intercultural Resource Center that ensure our community has access to basic survival needs.
We must look at behavioral health services, human services and youth-based prevention services as an essential response to this epidemic and necessary to ensure community safety. Remember, many of these essential community organizations are fueled by volunteers. Everyone can make a difference.
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