Sunday Solutions — May 21, 2023
Graduations lead into Memorial Day which brings us head-on to summer. There’s always inspiration in graduations, so let’s look ahead to what’s next for us all.
Savannah to get 4-year med school
The news trickled out in pieces this week, but the full picture is this: Georgia Southern’s Armstrong Campus in Savannah will be home to a 4-year medical school administered through Augusta University’s Medical College of Georgia. MCG has an existing partnership for 2-year training in Savannah with St. Joseph’s/Candler and in Brunswick at Southeast Health System. The longer program will provide a range of medical education from basic sciences to clinical experience. The University System’s Board of Regents voted Tuesday to fund renovations at the Armstrong campus for the new school. The $1.7 million was included in the state’s budget and escaped the $66 million in other cuts for the university system. Nearly 1 in 3 Georgia counties has a shortage of primary care providers and many have no obstetricians or gynecologists in a state with abysmal care rates for expectant mothers. With the coastal expansion, MCG will be able to accept 40 additional students each year to increase its annual class size to 304, one of the nation’s largest.
Toward better school outcomes for all families
As Coastal Georgia grows with a diverse workforce, its schools face challenges in how to serve all students. Earlier this month, Migrant Equity Southeast, a local nonprofit advocating for immigrant rights and education, released a report that called on Savannah-Chatham public schools to better serve Hispanic student and non-English speaking families. 1 in 8 students in the Savannah public school system are Hispanic. The report found only 69% of non-native English speakers graduate, compared to the 88% overall rate. It also found serious communications gaps for families in every facet of school life, from the car line to parent-teacher communications and assignments at home. Migrant Equity’s findings sparked several recommendations, including a larger number of bilingual staffers at schools, culturally competent counselors to provide support, staff training to help prevent bullying and other disconnects, and more hands-on parental engagement. Here’s a link to the report.
Get out: Build ties that bind
Your Sunday Solutions editor loves data detail and odd facts. Here’s one that popped out of her files again this week: When a local news source disappears or when broadband access is poor, researchers found the community’s rate of volunteerism dropped. So do people with fewer or splintered media habits feel less connected to their community? Possibly. This week USA Facts took at look at rates of volunteerism based on recent Census data. Over half of Americans age 16 and older (124.7 million people) provided help to their neighbors between September 2020 and 2021, during the pandemic. More than 60 million of those people formally volunteered with an organization. Millions of other informally volunteered in their communities, including bringing someone groceries, providing a ride to a medical appointment, and dozens of other helpful activities. Where does Georgia rank among states? In the bottom 5, for formal volunteer work. Informal volunteer work? 49th, just above Nevada. Get out: Go help a neighbor.
In memoriam: Jim Brown
NFL legend Jim Brown, 87, died last week. As well-known as his football, acting and Civil Rights careers have been across generations, it’s not likely many current Coastal Georgians know he was a St. Simons native and regular visitor. The island was his early childhood home and his daughter lived there until her death in 2016. Here’s The Brunswick News’ look at the man thought to be the greatest football player of all time.
- More budget fallout: More funding for Georgia’s suicide crisis line fell victim to line-item vetos in the state budget. The year-old 988 system is receiving 12% more calls from the state’s rural areas as rates from other portions of the state are falling.
- Your parrot needs to borrow your phone: If you were lonely during the Covid years, your pet probably was, too. A recent study found that parrots displayed behavior that suggested they were less lonely if they could have daily video chats with other birds. After 1,000 hours of observation, 18 pet birds with access to a tablet made 147 deliberate calls to interact with parrots on the other end. You can read about it here.
- Food pantry takes the meal kit approach: A food bank in Wisconsin is taking an extra step to help families assemble healthy dinners, according to a story from Next City. Volunteers put together food boxes along with specific recipes for the contents. Food pantry customers are short on money and time, so this effort works to keep dinner from being short on nutrition.
Your second cup: Freedom to help others
The political clashes about U.S. border policy are reviving a deep-seated challenge to religious freedom. Religious groups providing pastoral and humanitarian care to migrants are being charged and detained by Customs and Border Protection agents. A religion ethicist discusses new clashes where pastors and volunteers argue that providing human care is covered as religious practice, and how the legal landscape is shifting in support. It’s an example of how seemingly specific legal rulings have consequences beyond the case at hand. The Supreme Court’s 2014 ruling that allowed Hobby Lobby owners to refuse to provide contraception coverage for employees now aids those ministering to migrants at the border.
The state agency responsible for the crisis call center was dealt a setback earlier this month when Gov. Brian Kemp rejected a $2.3 million funding increase for additional support to manage the ongoing rollout. Kemp also nixed extra salary bumps for mental health professionals.
Local government staff, often under-resourced and with plenty of work on their plates, can struggle to stay on top of the different funding opportunities, coordinate the necessary partners or come up with the local match funding some grants require.
Georgia’s new budget provides $1.7 million to the state health department for a pilot program that brings healthcare to the homes of some expectant mothers and very young children.
Spending plan signed by Gov. Brian Kemp earlier this month includes a $66 million cut from the university system for a medical records system. With tuition and all other sources, the university system’s budget totals just under $9 billion.
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