National voting rights organization will host week of action and resource fairs throughout the South to advocate for the expansion of local Medicaid programs and bring awareness to rural hospital closures

GEORGIA – Today, Black Voters Matter (BVM) announced its new “Sick and Tired” initiative, as part of its #StateofEmergency campaign, which will focus on mobilizing Black voters, young people, grassroot organizers and policymakers around the need for Medicaid expansion and more access to equitable and affordable healthcare for Black and rural communities. This call for action comes at a particularly crucial time, as April 1st marks the end of an expanded Medicaid enrollment provision under the Family First Coronavirus Response Act, which would allow states to begin redetermining the eligibility of every person enrolled in Medicaid.. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) suggests that as many as 15 million people could be disenrolled and risk having their access to healthcare cut off by that date.

Eleven states have yet to expand Medicaid eligibility for families and individuals living below the poverty line. BVM will host a week of action and pop-up resource fairs across the South, in states including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas. These states combined have experienced more than 136 hospital closures in rural communities since 2010.

“Black southern communities feel the brunt of these impacts. We are in a state of emergency because too many Black people are living without access to safe and affordable healthcare options. Without access to Medicaid and affordable healthcare, lawmakers are sending the message that Black lives don’t matter,” said Cliff Albright, co-founder and executive director of Black Voters Matter. “Medicaid expansion could reverse the trend of rural hospital closings; when rural hospitals close, Black communities suffer disproportionately. We are sick and tired of having shorter life expectancy due to medical apartheid.”

BVM, in partnership with Community Catalyst, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and other state partners, will rally support for the expansion of, and increased investment in, state Medicaid programs as well as more accessible and affordable health resources for Black people in rural communities. BVM will launch digital campaigns, in-person forums, panels and pop-up events to encourage impacted communities to join the fight, become advocates for expanded healthcare access, and reach out to elected officials with their demands. The first three events will take place in Mississippi, Texas and Georgia.

Black communities face unique health needs in America, and in Southern states especially. The CDC only recently declared racism as a public health, but Black children and families in the United States have experienced the direct, indirect crisis, and intergenerational stressors that result from systemic racism for years, many of which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, southern states are in a state of emergency, as more and more rural hospitals close, leaving Black communities without adequate access to care.

In addition to Medicaid and hospital closures, BVM will champion better maternal care for Black women in states like Mississippi, which has seen a rise in disparities, as well as mental illness support for adults and young people. Currently, only one in three Black adults with a mental illness receive treatment, and Black youth ages 13 and younger are twice as likely to die by suicide compared to their white peers.

“Black people radiate love and joy which has made our pain bearable and survivable, but we deserve to thrive and to live healthy, fulfilling lives,” said LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter. “It’s time for action to protect our young people, mothers, and everyone in between. In the famous words of activist Fannie Lou Hamer, ‘We are sick and tired of being sick and tired.’”

PRESS CONFERENCE: For media interested in joining the press conference on March 21 at 11 am ET, please click here to RSVP.

LEARN MORE: To learn more about the campaign and local events taking place in each state, please visit the website.