I’m incredibly passionate about health care equity, having been raised in and around disenfranchised communities for the better part of my life. I’m the seventh of eight kids in a family of mixed-status. My first language is Spanish, and the color of my skin is canela, cinnamon. As a teen mom, I tried to not be another statistic. I maintained good grades in school while trying to make ends meet to provide my kids with a stable home and something to eat, but it seemed like no matter what I did, it just wasn’t enough. At a certain point, I broke and began to believe what society had been telling me and my family our whole lives: Stop trying; you don’t belong here.
Through my lived experiences I’ve gained wisdom and knowledge—but with that also comes having to relive some of my hardest days. I’ve lost family members who I believe would be here with me today had it not of been for the lack of opportunity and the judgments handed down against them because of it. For generations, our income, education, health, and even our voices have been taken away from us…as a result, so has the opportunity to be something, to be someone. These elemental things should not be considered privileges that are out of reach.
From healthcare to housing, from food to work, assistance is available
But help is available and can lift us up when we need it. Our reluctance to ask for help and accept it has been perpetuated over time by a notion that only the weak and incapable ask for help. It’s time to move past the stigma. Fortunately, there are partners and community members that have been actively working to ensure awareness of and access to resources—such as public assistance programs that serve as the safety net for individuals and families—that are available to them. Each program has its own set of eligibility requirements, but they will all include a maximum income requirement.
- Health First Colorado (formerly Medicaid) and Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) are public health insurance programs funded by the federal government and Colorado’s state government. Together, the health care coverage programs as of June 2020 have enrolled more than 1,337,805 individuals, including children, pregnant women, parents, seniors, and individuals with disabilities. Both Health First Colorado and CHP+ provide a dental benefit.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps low-income households purchase food by providing food assistance benefits as part of the federal nutrition program. In 2019, more than 43% of Colorado SNAP participants were in working families.
- Housing voucher programs help low-income Coloradans find affordable housing. The Division of Housing contracts with public housing authorities and nonprofit organizations to administer the housing voucher program. Vouchers are given by those agencies, not the Division of Housing. Tenants receive funding based on their income and can choose any type of housing including apartments, townhomes, and single-family homes.
- Colorado Works Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program helps strengthen a family’s economic and social stability with cash assistance and work support through local county department of human or social services’ Workforce Development Program.
There’s no shame at all in asking for help
Don’t give up and don’t be fooled into believing you have to go it alone. It’s been said that we rise by lifting others, so let’s continue to do just that for each other because collectively, and with the help of the above programs when we need them, we can improve the well-being of all Coloradans. To that end, I look forward to putting words into action—working as a part of the Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation—to increase critical self-awareness among dental professionals about how one’s social and historical context shapes the oral and overall health of communities, who provides the care, and the implications for dental care practices.