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Legislature Passes Sen. Skinner’s SB 65, the California Momnibus Act

SB 65 is sponsored by Black Women for Wellness Action Project, Western Center on Law and Poverty, California Nurse Midwives Association, NARAL Pro-Choice California, and National Health Law Program and supported by a coalition of over 50 organizations

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Godmother & Goddaughter Celebrating At A Party, Photo courtesy of Andrae Ricketts via Unsplash

The California state Senate approved Sen. Nancy Skinner’s SB 65, the California Momnibus Act, on a 31-5 vote on SB 65, which is designed to improve maternal and infant outcomes, particularly in families of color. SB 65 won unanimous approval from the state Assembly on September 9 on a vote of 77-0.

SB 65, which will improve research and data collection on racial and socio-economic factors that contribute to higher rates of maternal and infant mortality, now goes to Gov. Gavin Newsom for consideration.

Earlier this year, key elements of SB 65 were included in the state budget, including reduced work requirements for pregnant mothers on CalWORKs and new doula services for Medi-Cal recipients. SB 65 will also establish an implementation workgroup to maximize the reach of these new benefits into communities where they are needed most.

“California is failing birthing moms and babies – particularly those of color. Infant and maternal mortality is higher in the U.S. than in all other high-income countries. These are preventable deaths and we can and must do better,” said Skinner, who is vice chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus. “SB 65 will take a comprehensive approach to improving outcomes for birthing parents and babies and close racial disparities in maternal and infant deaths and health outcomes.”

Each year, an estimated two-thirds of the pregnancy-related deaths in the United States are considered preventable, according to a recent reportResearch points to structural racism and other socio-economic factors as playing key roles in causing racial and geographic disparities in birthing outcomes.

Although California’s infant mortality rate is lower than the national average, Black babies die at a rate more than double the state average. Mortality rates for Native American infants are also higher than the state norm. Death rates for Black pregnant and postpartum Californians are more than three times the state average.

SB 65 is part of a national effort to eliminate our country’s high maternal and infant mortality rates and complements two federal bills, the Black Maternal Momnibus Act of 2021 and The Kira Johnson Act, introduced by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA). SB 65:

  • Codifies and expands California’s Pregnancy-Associated Mortality Review Committee to investigate maternal mortality and morbidity and make recommendations on best practices to reduce maternal and infant deaths.
  • Updates data collection and protocols for counties participating in the Fetal and Infant Mortality Review Process and requires counties meeting specified criteria to participate.
  • Clarifies that pregnant people are exempt from CalWORKs welfare-to-work requirements.
  • Builds the midwifery workforce by establishing a fund for midwife training programs that prioritize admitting underrepresented groups and those from underserved communities.
  • Establishes a stakeholder workgroup to aid in the implementation of the new Medi-Cal doula benefit set to start next year.

SB 65 is sponsored by Black Women for Wellness Action Project, Western Center on Law and Poverty, California Nurse Midwives Association, NARAL Pro-Choice California, and National Health Law Program and supported by a coalition of over 50 organizations.

Aspects of the California Momnibus Budget Act in the 2021-22 budget included:

  • Expanding eligibility for CalWORKs grants to pregnant people regardless of the requirement that they report which trimester their pregnancy is in.
  • Increasing the pregnancy basic needs payment for pregnant CalWORKs recipients to $100 per month (it was $47).
  • Adding Doula Care to eligible Medi-Cal Services.
  • Extending full scope of Medi-Cal to a birthing parent for 12 months postpartum.
  • Including pregnant people as a priority for the state’s Guaranteed Income Pilot funded in the budget.

Robert Gammon is the communications director/policy adviser in the Office of State Senator Nancy Skinner, District 9.

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Activism

What Took So Long? Statue of Henrietta Lacks Will Replace Robert E. Lee Monument

In a video of a December 19 press conference posted on the city’s Facebook page, it was announced that a statue honoring Henrietta Lacks will be unveiled in fall of 2023 in the very place that once held a monument dedicated to Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The new statue’s permanent home, which was once named Lee Plaza, was renamed Lacks Plaza in Henrietta’s honor.

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Henrietta Lacks / City of Roanoke Facebook page.
Henrietta Lacks / City of Roanoke Facebook page.

The Black woman whose cells have helped advance medical research will be honored in her hometown

By Angela Johnson

The city of Roanoke, Va., is honoring a Black woman who made tremendous contributions to modern medical research without her knowledge or consent.

In a video of a December 19 press conference posted on the city’s Facebook page, it was announced that a statue honoring Henrietta Lacks will be unveiled in fall of 2023 in the very place that once held a monument dedicated to Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

The new statue’s permanent home, which was once named Lee Plaza, was renamed Lacks Plaza in Henrietta’s honor.

Civil Rights attorney Ben Crump, who was on hand for the press conference, said the new Lacks statue is a step toward healing some of the racial divisions of the past. “In the past, we commemorated a lot of men with statues that divided us,” he said. “Here in Roanoke, Va., we will have a statue of a Black woman who brings us all together.”

Fundraisers collected over $160,000 for the project. Roanoke artist Bryce Cobbs created the sketch for the 400-pound bronze sculpture based on two photographs.

And Larry Bechtel, a Blacksburg, Virginia, artist, will sculpt the statue of Lacks who was a Roanoke native.

“I really wanted to have a distinguished, powerful pose. And I wanted her looking up. I always remember, like, looking up as being something like a feeling of proudness and of having that confidence in yourself and the strength in who you are,” Cobbs told NPR.

Henrietta Lacks was undergoing treatment for cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1951 when doctors sent portions of her cancerous tissue to another laboratory without her consent. Lacks passed away in October of that year at age 31.

Researchers used her tissue to harvest a line of living cells known as HeLa cells that are still used in medical research today.

According to Johns Hopkins, the HeLa cells have contributed to several major medical developments over the past several decades, such as the development of polio and COVID-19 vaccines and the study of leukemia and AIDS.

Johns Hopkins says they have never sold or profited from the HeLa cells and have shared them freely for other scientific research.

That is little consolation to the Lacks’ family, who is still seeking justice on Henrietta’s behalf.

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Activism

California One Of 18 States That Reached $5.7 Billion Opioid Settlement with Walgreens

“This settlement is another win in our ongoing fight to bring help and healing to California communities harmed by the opioid crisis,” said Bonta. “To all those struggling with substance abuse disorders, to all those desperately in need of treatment and recovery options — help is on the way.”

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California Attorney General Rob Bonta. Bonta was sworn in as the 34th Attorney General of the State of California on April 23, 2021. (Office of the California Attorney General via Bay City News)
California Attorney General Rob Bonta. Bonta was sworn in as the 34th Attorney General of the State of California on April 23, 2021. (Office of the California Attorney General via Bay City News)

By Olivia Wynkoop
Bay City News Foundation

California Attorney General Rob Bonta, alongside 17 other attorneys general, announced a $5.7 billion settlement agreement with the pharmacy retailer Walgreens for their alleged contribution to the opioid epidemic.

The settlement reached Monday resolves a multistate lawsuit alleging Walgreens fueled and profited from the opioid addiction crisis by dispensing substances without proper oversight.

The abatement funds, which will be split amongst participating states, may bring in over $500 million to California’s ongoing efforts to provide treatment and services to those addicted to opioids.

“This settlement is another win in our ongoing fight to bring help and healing to California communities harmed by the opioid crisis,” said Bonta. “To all those struggling with substance abuse disorders, to all those desperately in need of treatment and recovery options — help is on the way.”

Walgreens also has to satisfy court-ordered requirements to help prevent another substance abuse crisis from occurring again. The company agreed to create a program to train employees on drug diversion prevention, investigate “suspicious” prescriptions before dispensing them and allow for site visits at pharmacy locations.

Walgreens also agreed to provide sales data from its distributor to drug manufacturers, in efforts to help identify and prevent times where prescription medicines are obtained illegally

Last month, Walmart also reached a multi-billion-dollar settlement agreement with state attorneys general to resolve a lawsuit with similar claims.

California is currently assessing settlement terms with CVS, another retail pharmacy chain that attorneys general alleged to have fueled the opioid crisis.

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Activism

Oakland Frontline Healers Host “Circle of Peace” Event at Lake Merritt December 28

The ‘Circle of Peace’ will be preceded by a ‘peace caravan’ starting at Liberation Park at 7101 Foothill Blvd at 3 p.m. It will arrive at the north end of Lake Merritt at 5:30 p.m. where artists will entertain the crowd. Candle stations will be established at north, south, east, and west locations on the lake. “Please bring your children. It’s time to teach peace.”

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Tanya Dennis, lead facilitator of Oakland Frontline Healers and board chair of Adamika Village says that “We are teaching peace and ‘The African Way’ in the Black community. We hope we can get every citizen in Oakland to join us to bring peace to the streets by supporting our Circle of Peace event.” Photo courtesy of Tanya Dennis.
Tanya Dennis, lead facilitator of Oakland Frontline Healers and board chair of Adamika Village says that “We are teaching peace and ‘The African Way’ in the Black community. We hope we can get every citizen in Oakland to join us to bring peace to the streets by supporting our Circle of Peace event.” Photo courtesy of Tanya Dennis.

By Post Staff

On Dec. 28, over 20 Black nonprofits will stage the largest “Circle of Peace” in the history of Oakland around Lake Merritt. Their intent is to galvanize every citizen in Oakland to join them in a citywide appeal for “Peace in the Streets.”

“We need 1,500 men, women and children, standing 12 feet apart to totally encircle the lake,” says Tanya Dennis, member of Adamika Village #StopKillingOurKidsMovement and Oakland Frontline Healers (OFH).

“Dec. 28 is the third day of Kwanzaa, which honors ‘Ujima,’ collective work and responsibility,” said Dennis, who is lead organizer of the Circle of Peace event. “The purpose of Ujima is to build and maintain the Black community and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems and to solve them together.

“It takes a village to heal a village,” Dennis said.

The ‘Circle of Peace’ will be preceded by a ‘peace caravan’ starting at Liberation Park at 7101 Foothill Blvd at 3 p.m. It will arrive at the north end of Lake Merritt at 5:30 p.m. where artists will entertain the crowd.

Candle stations will be established at north, south, east, and west locations on the lake. “Please bring your children. It’s time to teach peace.”

The organizers are asking 1,500 of Oakland’s brothers and sisters to come to Lake Merritt at 6:30 p.m., stand 12 feet apart and light a candle, and stand in silence from 7-7:30 p.m. to “shift the energy in Oakland and end violence.”

“Let’s make this go national and inform the nation Oakland wants and supports peace in the streets,” Dennis said. A drone will record the event.

Last year’s “Peace in the Streets” event saw the installation of hundreds of peace banners installed on International Boulevard.

Darren White, CEO of Realized Potential, teaches fatherhood workshops for youth regarding how to be good fathers, respect women and disavow violence in resolving conflicts. Photo courtesy of Darren White.

Darren White, CEO of Realized Potential, teaches fatherhood workshops for youth regarding how to be good fathers, respect women and disavow violence in resolving conflicts. Photo courtesy of Darren White.

Oakland Frontline Healers, Oakland’s premiere COVID-19 response team, comprises 19 Black-led nonprofits dedicated to the restoration, building, and healing of the Black community through providing resources, projects, and events.

The organization has also led development of a Black mental health initiative in partnership with the East Bay Association of Black Psychologists.

A collaboration with Adamika Village #StopKillingOurKidsMovement, MACRO, Broken Chains Ministries, and the Oakland Fire Department and headed by OFH member Realized Potential Inc., is hosting a community holiday event on Dec. 18 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at East Bay Dragons headquarters, located at 8731 International Blvd.

Realized Potential, which is headed by Darren White, does pop-up community resource events at local Oakland hot spots where gun violence has occurred to show residents that there are people and organizations engaged in gun violence prevention.

“We will provide Christmas gifts to youth and community members; we are serving food and distributing resource packets for community members that need information about jobs and housing,” White said. “We have hygiene kits, COVID-19 information, and PPE that will be available with hand sanitizer, masks, and home test kits — all free to the community.”

Realized Potential’s gift give-away and Adamika Village’s Circle of Peace are kicking off a series of OFH events in Oakland to prevent crime and show solidarity by modeling appropriate behavior for men and women involved in criminal behavior, utilizing their “African Way” philosophy.

OFH’s goal is to provide people with needed resources in order to change their behavior, put down guns, and end the violence that’s disrupting and traumatizing Oakland residents.

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