Parents ask Michigan applicants how they plan to tackle air quality and asthma

The November elections are just around the corner, so parents want to know which applicants will prioritize the issues that affect them most. They take into account air quality, access to asthma treatment in schools, funding for a mainstream kindergarten, the mental health of children and students with special needs, affordable childcare that wages sufficient staff, and shortages of early childhood education teachers. Many of them held the candidates accountable for their questions on the forum.

Detroit Champions for Hope, in partnership with Michigan’s Children, organized a virtual forum on October 24 where parents could ask local Michigan Senate candidates about problems affecting their families. The Southwest Detroit Community Congress and Think Babies Michigan also sponsored the event, which was broadcast live on Facebook.

An early initiative from Hope Starts Here Framework, Detroit Champions for Hope, connects parents and caregivers with resources and advocacy, supporting them as their child’s first champions. Michigan’s Children works for public policy in the best interests of children and families from cradle to career. The nonprofit works with local partners across the state to organize candidate youth and parent forums ahead of the election to address family and community issues.

Candidates from six senate districts that touch at least parts of Detroit – 1, 2, 3, 6, 8 and 10 – have been invited to participate. Four candidates have appeared to listen and respond to parents. We have listed them by district they hope to represent in the newly drawn Michigan map, published earlier this year by the Michigan Independent Citizen Reduction Commission (MICRC).

Senator Erika Geiss, D- (District 1), Harry Sawicki, R- (District 2), Senator Stephanie Chang, D- (District 3), and Senator Mallory McMorrow, D- (District 8) were in attendance.

The first question was asked by the parent of Laquitt Brown, whose son is struggling with severe asthma. During the attack earlier this year, Brown said he was unable to receive treatment at school due to restrictions on nebulizer fast-release drug administration due to a potential increased risk of COVID-19 transmission. Instead, she had to pick up her son to give him his medications, wasting precious time, she said, on his care.

Brown’s son is one of tens of thousands of children struggling with the disease in a city with a greater burden of asthma than anywhere else in his state. According to a 2021 report published by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), data collected in 2017-2019 show a significant difference between the prevalence of asthma among children in Detroit (14.6%) compared to Michigan (8.4%). ). Over the same period, hospitalization rates were at least twice as high among Detroit children as Michigan children and three times as high among adults.

Question: What positive changes can you make to school asthma policy so that children can receive life-saving techniques and medications when needed?

Stephanie Chang She said the disproportionate impact of asthma and air quality problems on children in Michigan, particularly in Detroit, was a big problem for her. She has never heard of someone being denied treatment for COVID-19, but she would “dive into this” and thinks it’s something we “should try to work on together.”

“Over the past eight years, I have enacted numerous environmental justice and air quality laws to help reduce the burden, especially in Detroit and other communities of color, which have had a disproportionate pressure on air quality,” he said. “Whether it’s international truck traffic, the smelters near Downriver, the oil refinery in Southwest Detroit, the Stellantis plant and their six violations, there is a lot we can do to ensure we address Detroit’s asthma.”

Mallory McMorrow Agreed Air Quality is a major concern in Michigan. She said that in our pursuit of a sustainable future, it must be fair in all communities. He is an advocate of regulations that would help schools buy electric buses, reducing children’s exposure to exhaust fumes. In this situation, she said she would try to work with the parent and the school district to find a solution that would support everyone involved. Her office often worked individually with voters to address their specific concerns. Regarding health issues, she said schools need more funds and more staff to manage them.

“We know many of our teachers have too large class sizes,” she said. “They don’t have enough help, enough help in the classroom to work one-on-one, especially with people like your child, to give them access to the asthma care they need when teachers are already overburdened.”

Harry Sawicki He said schools are the ones that “make the rules” for this and is concerned about their policies. “All we can do is try to help them,” he said. “First of all, I would like to address this issue to the school board and explain why this happened. As for why this occurs, we don’t know what causes an asthma attack. But I would like to make sure that the child is properly looked after at school. “

Erika Geiss He said that when it comes to improving air quality, we need to provide our schools with funding for adequate HVAC systems, HEPA filters and ventilation for students’ health. Providing resources for school nurses and school health programs is also essential, she said, so that skilled people are able and ready to administer life-saving drugs and know what protocols to follow to protect themselves while protecting students.

“And the fact that you are wasting time calling your parent or guardian to come to school and administer it; it affects and interacts with parents who may not have access to paid sick leave, paid time off or transport, ”she said. “We need to look at each of these things and make sure we strengthen these areas.”

Question: What can you do at the state level to drive trucks off the streets?

The second question came from Amanda Holiday, a parent who lives and works in Southwest Detroit. Her Livernois 2 Clark Block club fights truck traffic in the surrounding streets. “It’s very frustrating and the city is slow to react. In fact, there is no city ordinance around truck roads, ”she said. “It fits in with all this asthma and air problems.”

Mallory McMorrow She said she had heard similar concerns about noise and air pollution in the past four years representing the community on Woodward Avenue. Progress, she noted, comes from discussing issues facing communities together and working together to see what legislative options should be encouraged at the state level. She said that as a state leader she cannot dictate it directly, so her office arranges quarterly meetings with every mayor, city manager, police and fire chief.

“I am proud to say that as a result of part of our joint work, we have implemented numerous security measures on Woodward Avenue,” she said. “That’s the approach I would take in such a case: how can we work together to see solutions? Even if the solution is to make sure our local leaders are aware of it and are able to respond directly. ”

Harry Sawicki He said he wonders why there are no more restrictions on the load on the neighborhood streets.

“I think this is something that individual cities have to look at. At the state level, I don’t know if we can do that much because I’m not an office right now, but it’s something to look into the future, he said. – But I understand your situation and hear it. I live two blocks from Telegraph Road and I know we are talking about noise and truck traffic.

Erika Geiss He said that while this is a local issue, intergovernmental talks with the city, county, and state must take place to ensure restrictions and measures are taken to protect communities living from truck routes. In her capacity as vice-president of the Democrats at the Transport and Infrastructure Committee, she worked to enforce weight and speed limits for trucks that passed through the legislature. However, she said more collaborative talks and meaningful action were needed.

“I think public safety and community health must be the top priority when dealing with traffic problems,” she said.

Stephanie Chang he called it “funny” to see trucks in residential streets where families live and play. Her office works to connect and organize residents in the Southwest with those in the East who are also experiencing the negative effects of truck traffic in the neighborhood. He strongly supports the truck route ordinance issued by Detroit City Council member Gabriella Santiago-Romero and her predecessor Raquel Castañeda-López.

“It’s coming a long time,” and it could make a big difference to the Southwest, and if it widens, the whole city, “she said. Regarding Detroit’s state and county roads, she said coordination at all levels is essential to keep things “crystal clear.”

“There are many things we can do at the state level to make sure that local policy can be as effective as possible. But we have to work hand in hand with them as they devise these rules to make sure that we “work properly.”

Check out the rest of this series to find out how these applicants responded to more questions from parents about family issues, as well as how Michigan House applicants responded to parents in the September forum. This community conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.

This post is part of our Early Education Matters series exploring the state of early childhood education and care in our area. With the generous support of the Southeast Michigan Early Childhood Funders Collaborative (SEMI ECFC), we will keep you informed of what parents and carers are currently experiencing, what works and what doesn’t, and who is finding solutions.

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