Alinea Stevens: Newsom’s strong parent agenda will improve the health and future of children and families
As a practicing physician and working mother of a 2-year-old daughter born with a rare congenital condition, I wear many hats in my everyday life.
I serve as the medical director of Chapa-De Indian Health Centers in Auburn and Grass Valley and sit on the First 5 Placer Children and Families Commission. When away from my professional duties, I am busy tending to the needs of a vibrant toddler born with Goldenhar Syndrome.
I will never forget the moment, after 30 hours of labor and an emergency C-Section, that my daughter was pulled from me and the nurse uttered the words, “There is something wrong with your daughter, but don’t worry, it’s not your fault.”
My heart plummeted. My mind swam in a pool of terror. My body, gripped with fatigue from 30 hard hours, just wanted to stop.
Within 12 hours, we had a diagnosis.
Within two months, we had a seven-year plan for her health care and access to home health services, as well as access to specialty care.
Within two years, she has had four surgeries and is doing well. Great, even. She dances madly, despite spinal issues. She laughs radiantly, even while healing from throat and cleft surgeries.
These past two years have been, if nothing else, an education to both my husband and I on how incredibly privileged we are. Simply put, not everybody gets the level of care my daughter — born in the academic hospital that I completed my medical residency at — has received.
Working at a community health center, with under-served populations, we regularly see young children in need of medical attention and families who work hard to provide for their children but struggle daily due to California’s affordability crisis. We see children who suffer from medical conditions that go undetected due to a severe lack of early detection screenings in many communities. Many of our pregnant patients are forced to drive 30 or more miles when they are ready to deliver a baby. Chapa-De, First 5 Placer, and other partners in Placer County are striving to help alleviate these problems. Our local efforts are making good progress, but we only serve a small portion of California and have limited reach and resources.
That’s why I am relieved and, dare I say, encouraged when I see Gov. Newsom’s new state budget allocating over $40 million towards developmental screenings and expanded services to all families in California.
The budget also places $60 million towards the improvement of trauma screenings to ensure medical providers, like myself, have more context for the patients that we serve in order to provide optimal care. This, coupled with the Expanded Earned Income Tax Credit and increased access for low-income child care, have the chance to make real change and provide families with a fighting chance.
While speaking at Sacramento City College, Gov. Newsom said it well by stating that this budget is not perfect and that it will not solve all that ails us. Nevertheless, it is an important first step in addressing the many inequalities we see within California. In order to fix this, our state leaders must listen to the voices of parents, medical and social providers, and the community.
Only then will we be successful at meeting the goals of the budget, to improve the health and future of our children.
Alinea Stevens, MD, is the medical director of Chapa-De Indian Health Centers in Auburn and Grass Valley and sits on the First 5 Placer Children and Families Commission.
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