Children in Louisiana continue to suffer from high rates of poverty, struggling families and poor health outcomes, according to the 2022 edition of the Kids Count Data Book, produced by the Annie E. Casey Foundation with its Louisiana partner, Agenda for Children. Louisiana ranked 49th among the 50 states – behind only New Mexico – despite making strides in several education and economic categories over the past decade. The Lafayette Daily Advertiser’s William Taylor Potter reports:
Courtney Rogers, the director of policy and advocacy at Agenda for Children, said the low rankings in the Data Book show that Louisiana needs to put more effort into meeting children’s needs. “Louisiana policymakers missed a critical opportunity during the 2022 legislative session to build a stronger foundation for children and families when they prioritized physical infrastructure projects over our human infrastructure as they allocated stimulus dollars,” Rogers said. “We need our legislators to put Louisiana children first by investing in initiatives that support kids and families, such as paid family and medical leave, affordable housing initiatives and robust expansion of mental health services.”
Lawmakers will have an opportunity next legislative session to tackle these critical problems facing our state. The Recovery Agenda for Louisiana, produced by LBP with community partners, details investments Louisiana can make to lift up families and children.
Luring doctors to rural areas
Nearly three-fourths of Louisianans live in areas that lack access to primary care physicians. The doctor shortage is especially acute in rural areas and has accelerated since the pandemic, as older physicians retired and there weren’t enough young professionals to replace them. The Times-Picayune’s Faimon A. Roberts III looks at the steps Louisiana is taking to fill the growing need:
The state has one new arrow in its quiver: VCOM Louisiana, a medical school formed in partnership with the University of Louisiana at Monroe, is specifically aimed at helping fill the doctor shortage, said Mark Sanders, the Dean at VCOM’s Louisiana campus. The school was founded in Virginia in partnership with Virginia Tech University in 2003 and was specifically designed to train doctors to help address rural shortages. Subsequent branches of the school have opened in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and Auburn, Alabama. Monroe is the system’s newest campus, and it began admitting about 160 students per year beginning in 2020.
Don’t just blame DCFS
The agency responsible for overseeing Louisiana’s foster care, adoption and family services announced on Monday that its caseworkers will immediately visit young children who are hospitalized under suspicion of abuse or neglect. The policy shift from the Department of Children and Family Services came in response to the fentanyl overdose death of Mitchell Robinsion, a 2-year-old who was allowed to stay in the care of his mother despite being hospitalized at least twice in the month leading up to his death. The Advocate’s Andrea Gallo reports from the Senate Select Committee on Women and Children, where agency officials bemoaned years of budget cuts that led up to this point:
While DCFS officials spent most of their testimony lamenting staff shortages and heavy caseloads, legislators responded that despite those factors, Mitchell’s death was unacceptable. They also questioned how a toddler being hospitalized with illegal drugs in his system did not demand an immediate response from DCFS. … DCFS officials have spent years warning legislators that the agency does not have enough staff and that pay is too low to attract and retain employees for grueling work. Raises implemented at the beginning of the year increased entry-level pay for frontline caseworkers from $29,000 to $36,000 annually. Their job duties include knocking on doors amid family disputes, violence and drug usage; removing children from their homes in the middle of the night and transporting children to and from family visits, doctor appointments and more.
Oil and gas companies should clean up their own messes
When oil and gas companies receive permission from the state to drill, the companies agree (by law) to clean up the site. Unfortunately, but predictably, Louisiana’s enforcement of this law is lax, forcing individuals and parish governments to take companies to court to get them to comply. As Lt. Gen. Russel Honore explains, in a letter to The Advocate, a permit to drill is not a license to destroy:
[T]he legal action taken by coastal parishes is to require global oil to clean up the “real and provable” damages it has left along our coast. No more. No less. Fix what you damaged. Restore what you destroyed. Give the people of these coastal parishes a chance to save their way of life. In times of record profits, is this asking too much of ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron and BP? Don’t pass this bill along to Louisiana taxpayers, because those who destroyed and harmed our coast should have to pay to fix it, not the taxpayers of Louisiana. Fourth, while the coast is being addressed, it is long past time global oil dealt with the 4,000 abandoned well sites dotting Louisiana.
Number of the Day
49th – Louisiana’s overall ranking for child well-being, out of all 50 states. Louisiana ranked last in the nation for children’s economic well-being (Source: Annie E. Casey Foundation with their Louisiana partner, Agenda for Children)