Today, as we combine discussion and direct action, science and conscience, social responsibility and human rights, we announce the organization of the Chicago Health Care Sanctuary Initiative built on these same combinations.
If we believe that Health Care is a Human Right – as does much of the world – than we can only conclude that there is now an all out attack on that basic human right. We can no longer tolerate the sight of a young mother or father living for years with debilitating disease and then denied years more of their lives - while the more prosperous and privileged enjoy their full complement of years. We can no longer tolerate young children crippled early in their lives by preventable disease and harmful lifestyles. We are called to establish this city and this state as asanctuary for the immediate defense of this most basic human right.
If we view the pending initiatives of the current Administration and Congress, we can only conclude that a health care system which is already inadequate for millions will be further incapacitated in these next four years. We will not wait on the government to change. The human cost is too high. We must mobilize all available forces to act for the survival of our communities – because Black and Brown Lives Matter!
Closing the life expectancy and quality of life gap between rich and poor, white and people of color, requires a new emphasis on early detection of disease, adoption of health conscious life styles and community standards and access and consistent connection to ambulatory care. We call this new campaign a Health Care Sanctuary Initiative because it seeks to protect the human rights of our communities which are under attack through the denial of basic health care.
While this initiative is a survival program, we believe it is also an effort to reshape our current health care system from the bottom up, providing for community wide prevention and early detection as well as making treatment accessible and relevant to the many diverse communities in the Chicago Metropolitan area.
What is going on now in this country is not normal – and it is not right. The greatest killer in this country now is not heart disease, or cancer or violence - it is inequality. We are in a war of non-cooperation with those who are attempting to impose this killer on our communities. To fight this war, we need an army of non-cooperators
Our army will recruit soldiers through the integration of community service into educational institutions from High School through Medical Schoo. Those students wll constitute a new community based volunteer army for Health Education and early detection of disease- as well as other threats to the health of our communities. We believe that the youth of our communities and schools can provide long sought after solutions, while at the same time giving them orientation and access to health careers.
Through this sanctuary initiative we will establish tables of negotiation with private and public health care institutions to negotiate basic health care to the uninsured and underinsured. We will back up these negotiation tables with an advocacy force combining community organizations and churches and elected representatives with a special emphasis of organization from on the next generation.
This initiative will continue advocacy for legislative and governmental improvements and access to health care at each level of government – but we will not wait on the political process to bend current health care institutions to provide for the uninsured and underserved. Health care institutions will have to change their priorities. We will take both direct action, political action and legal action to close the health care gap that shortens lifetimes and reduces the quality of life.
We believe that a good health system begins with an educated consumer, a conscious and responsible participant in their own health care. This requires a massive campaign of education and information that utilizes the energy of the next generation.
We believe that preventive care requires not only access and affordability but connectionsto consistent care.
We believe that neighborhood doctor’s offices, clinics and hospitals must be connected to the community and must reorganize their priorities to deliver health care to the uninsured and underinsured.
We believe that while this reorganization must make full use of what is called “charity care”, which from today on we will call human rights care, institutional priorities and partnerships must be developed that go beyond these traditional resources. We call on our health care institutions to expand their policies to cover all individuals in need of ambulatory care. All ambulatory care facilities and outpatient diagnostic testing and surgical centers associated with the area’s hospitals and medical groups should adopt policies to allow all those who are uninsured or underinsured to access the same ambulatory health care as those with insurance.
Our Sanctuary Initiative draws on the foundational efforts of the struggle to provide health care to those denied insurance – such as immigrants and others that were priced out of or fell through the cracks of legislated coverage – and seeks to now defend those whose insurance may soon be denied.
We will work to establish sanctuaries to defend our communities from the ongoing attacks of today. In sanctuary, students will organize screenings for early detection of chronic disease. Insanctuary hospital and clinics will open their doors to those found to need treatment – with or without insurance. In sanctuary, health care is not only a right, it is a collective responsibility. In sanctuary, healthy diet and exercise will grow with the next generation and those things that poison our environment and our lives will be eliminated. In sanctuary we will make way for a new generation of health workers from the communities where they are most needed.
These sanctuaries will also be workshops for rebuilding the health care system from below - while we continue the fight for universal health care in this nation. We will organize our sanctuary block to block, community by community, registering to vote and organizing for power as we go.
The initiative we announce today will assemble representatives from the major health providers with those who are most affected and with those who will fight for them. The initiative will include medical professionals, students, churches, community organizations and people of conscience. Let us tell those in Washington DC, the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies that life is precious and WE WILL SURVIVE!
Today we make our declaration of sanctuary! It begins NOW! JOIN US!