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Speak Your Piece: ‘Our Citizens Need Hope That They Can Get a Job With a Living Wage’

As a nurse practitioner in family practice, one of my foremost goals is to prevent disease.  In the medical community we know that if we can get a patient to lose weight, exercise and in some cases take medication, we can prevent a patient from a needlessly expensive hospital stay and costly surgical procedure at best, or heart attack and death at worse.  A few dollars of prevention not only makes for a healthier patient, but prevents thousands and thousands of dollars later.

If our response to a rising incidence of heart attacks in our community is to hire more cardiac surgeons to perform more bypass surgeries and stents in the hospital, we will not only have a very expensive solution, we will have poorer outcomes from not preventing the original disease in the first place.

Redding has a long history of economic and social malaise, certainly aggravated by the Great Recession.  Though other cities our size have recovered, Redding still suffers from a higher unemployment rate and lower median income than the rest of the nation.  Almost one in five residents in our city lives below the poverty level.  This malaise creates an atmosphere of hopelessness, resulting in substance abuse, domestic violence, crime, homelessness and mental illness.

If an individual has no hope for a better future, then what’s the point in striving to pull oneself out of poverty?  Why get treatment for substance abuse if you have no hope for a future?

Our community has currently focused much of its attention on the troubling social issues in our community, but we must understand that the rising rates of crime, substance abuse, mental illness and homelessness are symptoms of long-term hopelessness.  Until our community can create hope for a better future, we will only treat symptoms, not root causes.  Our citizens need hope that they can get a job with a living wage to support themselves and their families.  A prosperous economy will not only increase hope and move people out of poverty, but will provide a tax base to increase funding for needed social services.  Trying to divide the current pie into smaller pieces is not the answer.  We need to make a bigger pie and we do that through creating jobs.

Currently, the majority of our best and brightest students move out of our community to make their dreams come true.  My oldest son is a college graduate and although he’d love to move back to Redding, he lives in Portland because there is no work for him here.  My other son is also a college graduate and he chose to stay in Redding, but the price is quite dear.  He works three part-time jobs with no benefits, two of which are in Yuba City and Chico, just to make ends meet.  I want my children and grandchildren to have a future in Redding.

We certainly should support community programs that address substance abuse, homelessness and much needed mental health care, but the reality is that if we want to change and prevent those conditions we need to pour our energies and resources into a long-term plan for a vibrant local economy that gives our citizens hope for a better future. Otherwise, we will exhaust ourselves and our resources trying to address symptoms while the underlying disease rages on.

Julie Winter is an NP who works in family practice with Andre Van Mol,MD.  Julie is a graduate of Leadership Redding and currently serves on the Community Development Advisory Committee for the city of Redding, as well as the board of directors for Advance Redding and the Redding Area PA/NP Alliance.  She has lived in Redding since 1989 and is married with 2 children and 3 grandchildren.