This October, after county commissioners in St. Joseph County voted to reject a previously approved $3 million grant for community health workers, Faith in St. Joseph County leaders knew they had to take action.
The money was meant to fund eight new community health workers to address long-standing health disparities, particularly in Black and Latino communities across St. Joseph County.
But rather than accept the already awarded funds — which they had previously approved applying for — Commissioners Deb Flemming and Derek Dieter made it very clear how unimportant investing in the health of Black and brown people in St. Joseph County was to them.
Hundreds of faith and community members expressed their outrage that the County Commissioners voted to reject the funds, which were desperately needed in order to improve the health of communities of color ravaged by COVID. More than 300 members of the community took action with Faith in Indiana, sending nearly 3,000 emails to members of the County Council to demand they override the short-sighted veto.
At a press conference sponsored by Faith in Indiana, the NAACP, the Near Northwest Neighborhood and Black Lives Matter, faith and community leaders called on the Council to act.
“I know we badly need community health workers, especially in communities of color, to help people navigate the healthcare system and get life saving treatment and prevention. I’m outraged that Commissioners Dieter and Fleming would try to divide and distract us, and refuse the funds to make our communities whole,” explained Clara Davis, Faith in Indiana Leader at Abundant Faith Family Ministry.
Thanks to their efforts, the County Council voted 7-1 to override the veto and bring the funds to St. Joseph County.
After the vote, Nicole MacLaughlin from St. Augustine Catholic Church said “We can win when we act together.”
You can watch coverage of the press conference and the County Council meeting: ABC57 and WNDU (press conference) ABC 57 and South Bend Tribune on Council vote.