Guest blog post by Maria Escalera, Advocacy Coordinator, Lutheran Family Health Centers, Brooklyn, New York. Maria is an alum of NACHC’s Advocacy Leadership Program.
Taking an active role to assure the total well-being of the community it serves lies at the core mission of Lutheran Family Health Centers (LFHC). When an important Brooklyn bus route — that directly linked patients to a variety of Lutheran community health center sites — was eliminated, the Lutheran community responded quickly.
The discontinuation of the bus route (the B37) was a significant loss, impacting the elderly, people with disabilities, families, youth, and people with chronic illnesses. It served as a direct route to many of Lutheran’s programs and community health center sites.
Lutheran’s Community Advocacy Committee quickly made restoring the route a priority and took action by becoming a founding member of the “Save the B37 Coalition,” a grassroots campaign with other local organizations including UPROSE and Transit Forward.
Whether online or on paper, Lutheran members worked with community residents and organizations to garner support and boost awareness for the bus route. We printed and handed out flyers, organized petition drives and much more. A rally was organized on May 19 where veteran LFHC board member Sylvia Cooper voiced strong opinions about the need for the B37. The tone of that rally set off another one held on June 15 outside Lutheran’s main campus with more than 100 attendees. [Click here for the media advisory.] At both events, state and local elected officials showed up in support. You may also watch the clip of another LFHC veteran board member, Violeta Maya, speaking to our local cable news outlet NY1.
“As a founding member of the coalition, we see this as a community health issue, the B37 bus provided patients access to their physicians,” says Larry K. McReynolds, LFHC executive director. “Many of the most severely impacted are senior citizens, people with disabilities, and those that can’t afford car service for medical appointments. We’d like to see this critical transportation route restored as soon as possible and our grassroots advocacy committee will play a large role in that.”
The work of the committee in restoring the B37 route is far from over but we know we have had an impact. Our coalition members plan to meet for one last rally scheduled in July outside N.Y.C.’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority headquarters during their budgetary meeting. Please stay tuned.