To help change the inequality in access to care, Jensen said the department is looking to form a coalition with public agencies, private citizens, nonprofits and other community voices and address each of the three goals head-on.
The department’s stated goals are: ensuring “all individuals in Merced County have access to quality health care,” “optimizing social and physical environments to support healthy lifestyles” and increasing wellness in Merced County “by addressing the conditions that lead to drug and alcohol abuse.” The department has given itself until 2021 to achieve each of these goals.
While the scope of work may be daunting, department officials say they hope to achieve true healthy equity by incorporating a wide-spectrum of voices and community representatives in the planned coalition.
“I think a lot of people don’t really know what DACA is. People think [Trump] can’t really do anything about it, but they don’t really understand the difference between an executive order and the law,” she said. “He can literally just take that piece of paper and throw it in the trash and that will be it. It won’t mean anything anymore.”
Fear of a Trump presidency is in fact prompting many to shy away from applying for the program or from renewing their paperwork out of fear their information will be used by the government to initiate deportation proceedings against them.
“The most important thing to remember, is that you may not have papers, but you do have rights. You have the right to remain silent. You do not have to respond to immigration’s questions,” Davenport said. “If they ask where you were born or where you live, just say you’d prefer not to answer.”
The hope is that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials will decide you are too much of a hassle and will not bother pursuing someone who shows they have a clear understanding of their legal rights, she said.
“I’ve always wanted to vote and help pick the president,” says Alex Salas, an 18-year-old senior at Golden Valley High School in Merced. “It means a lot to me and I’m excited to be able to pick the person that I believe should run our country.”
Salas is a member of the city’s Youth Council, a youth counterpart to the Merced City Council. He says that while he’s disappointed with the Republican win, he still believes in the importance of exercising his right to vote.
“I got a lot of support from other people of color in the area, which I think is important,” Lor said. “Being in the community for so long, it was frustrating to speak but not be heard and to see but not be seen.”
Growing up in Merced County, Lor said she is intimately familiar with many of the struggles residents still face and has worked hard over the last 15 years to help strengthen the community.