The COVID-19 pandemic has had a crisis-level impact on families’ abilities to meet their basic needs for shelter, food, and medical care. The Annie E. Casey Foundation has just published the report Kids, Families, and COVID-19: Pandemic Pain Points and the Urgent Need to Respond, generated from data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau’s weekly Household Pulse Survey.
The data show that Georgians are reporting high economic insecurity. 58% of adults with children have reported that they’re concerned about eviction or foreclosure due to pandemic-related income loss. 16% of adults with children reported that they sometimes or often did not have enough food to eat in the past week.
“Georgia’s food banks are responding to a 50% increase in demand that surged in March and continues today. Adults who don’t have the food they need are more likely to miss work and have a difficult time holding down a job.”
The data also show the mental health toll caused by the pandemic, with more than 30% of adults with children reporting they’ve experienced anxiety in the past week, and more than 20% reporting feeling down, depressed, or hopeless. Separately, the CDC reports that the pandemic is directly related to an increase in substance misuse and overdose. Overdose deaths increased nationally by 18.2% from the 12-month period ending June 2019 to the 12-month period ending May 2020.
“The pandemic has increased the rates of many determinants of mental health conditions, such as isolation, poverty, and lacking a sense of security,” said Kim Jones, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Georgia chapter. “Due to this, the data show that mental health issues will be our next pandemic. In 2020, Georgia ranked 51st in access to mental health.”
Georgia has the second-highest rate in the nation of children who lack health insurance, making access to medical care difficult when parents are unemployed.
While children enrolled in public school are still eligible to receive many basic need services, participating in school online from home and lack of transportation has limited families’ access to many supports. Many low-income families lack the skills necessary to support their children’s full virtual participation in classroom activities. Families are struggling to find suitable supervision for their school-age children when they must work outside the home, and the correlation between job loss and reduced access to quality childcare must be addressed before employers can bring staffing and productivity back to full capacity.
Locally, Newton County Family Connection is responding to these concerns through the Be Healthy Newton strategy team and Drug Free Community Coalition.
Initiatives are being developed to address the needs of families suffering from housing instability and to better connect families with sources of food, medical care, and mental health services.
Partner organizations are providing community members with opioid response training (including providing free Narcan kits) and suicide prevention education.
Newton County Family Connection is training volunteers to teach low-income families skills to help support their children’s learning online. Volunteers of all ages are encouraged to participate in strategy teams or to help with delivering programs and services. Hands On Newton is Newton County Family Connection’s volunteer management program and recruits and refers volunteers for nonprofit partner organizations. Hands On Newton also manages the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service every year and is currently seeking low-/no-touch projects and volunteers for the event on January 18, 2021.
For more information about Be Healthy Newton, the Newton County Drug Free Community Coalition, or Hands On Newton, visit www.nwtnfamilyconnection.org, email [email protected] or call 770-330-7405. Newton County Family Connection provides leadership in community planning for solutions to issues that affect families and children.
Mollie Melvin, program director for Newton County Family Connection, has over 35 years of experience directing programs for families with children. Melvin serves as Chair of the Newton County Drug Free Coalition, and serves on the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning Quality Rated Childcare Advisory Committee and the Georgia Suicide Prevention Advisory Group. She serves on Newton County Schools’ Career, Technical, Agricultural Education Advisory Board and chairs the Georgia Piedmont Technical College Early Childhood Care and Education Advisory Board. She directs Hands On Newton, Newton County Family Connection’s volunteer management program and sits on the steering committee for GSU/Perimeter College’s Academic Community Engagement initiative.