Latino Health Access Will Protest Funding Cut to Supervisors

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Representatives of Latino Health Access are expecting a large crowd to join them at the Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday in protest of cuts in county funding to the Santa Ana-based social service nonprofit.

Late last year, county officials informed Latino Health Access (LHA) that they would not be extending the organization’s exclusive contract to provide promotores services throughout the county, opting instead to divvy up the approximately $500,000 allocation among several community organizations.

The decision took LHA leaders by surprise and has left the organization scrambling to obtain other funding to keep its community-based health awareness program running at its current level.

“We want to assure that it is clear for the public and the partners that a vital and effective program is being dismantled and the money is being given to good organizations that did not ask for it,” said America Bracho, LHA’s president and CEO, in an email sent to supporters last week. “We have to make our political representatives accountable for their decisions.”

Bracho has said she is convinced that the decision to cut funding was, on some level, retribution for a dust-up LHA had with the Board of Supervisors when the two-year grant was up for approval in 2011.

Supervisor John Moorlach had taken issue with using “promotora,” a Spanish word, to describe a county-funded program and hinted that the grant might not be approved. Nelson, meanwhile, questioned whether the program would seem exclusionary because of the word “Latino” in Latino Health Access.

The supervisors faced swift backlash from supporters of the organization, which included state Sen. Lou Correa and then Assemblyman Jose Solorio. The supervisors softened their public stance, with Nelson going so far as to meet personally with LHA leaders.

Now Bracho believes county officials are exacting some measure of revenge. “The only answer is they approved [the original grant] against their own will in the first place and it is a political decision,” Bracho said in an interview earlier in the year.

Supervisors and other county officials, however, said the decision was wasmade in the name of efficiency, not political payback. It was made as part of an overall effort to consolidate programs and to broaden the promotores program, not to punish LHA, they say.

Promotores have long played a key role in administering health care in Latino and other minority communities, acting as liaison for people who because of economic and cultural reasons do not have ready access to the health care system. The concept first began to be widely used in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s.

The program has been a cornerstone of the services offered by LHA since Bracho founded the organization in 1993. And it was because of LHA’s expertise in the field that county officials asked it to train other community organizations.

Most recently, LHA held a training in November that included Western Youth Services, the Multi-Ethnic Collaborative of Community Agencies, the Orange County Asian Pacific Islander Community Alliance and the Orange County Child Abuse Prevention Center.

And it was after this training that county officials told LHA of their plan to take the more than $500,000 that was going exclusively to LHA and split it evenly between LHA and the four groups it trained.

“All of this is happening without any response on our part,” Bracho wrote in her email. “We will be there sharing the need of this program and the outcomes.”

Please contact David Washburn directly at dwashburn@voiceofoc.org.

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