State-Fed plan focuses on environmental justice
Several neighborhoods in Boulder County could benefit from a state-federal initiative aimed at advancing environmental justice.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) released a final workplan last month explaining how the agencies will collaborate through enforcement and compliance to reduce pollution in “disproportionately impacted communities.”
According to Joel Minor, environmental justice program manager for CDPHE, the State defines a disproportionately impacted community via three demographic factors — race, income and housing-cost burden — as well as cumulative impacts, which refers to exposure to a variety of pollutants. Communities became disproportionately polluted because of a discriminatory mortgage apprasail practice called redlining that isolated communities of color and drove land-use decisions that placed hazardous industries in these areas.
Of a total of 200 census block groups in Boulder County, Minor says 70 of those meet the definition of a disproportionately impacted community, including neighborhoods in Lafayette, parts of Longmont and parts of Boulder.
“Even within more affluent communities are often pockets of inequality or lower-income communities with more affordable housing mixed in with the more affluent areas,” Minor says. “One example in Boulder County are mobile home parks, which tend to be one of the most affordable sources of housing.” Both Arbordale and Boulder Ridge mobile home parks in Lafayette are disproportionately impacted communities.
The workplan focuses on three actions, all related to compliance and enforcement of regulations: targeting inspections in impacted communities; collaboration between state, local and federal partners on enforcement and compliance assurance; and creating equitable opportunities for communities across the state to learn and engage with agencies about enforcement and compliance issues.
“It’s about holding regulated entities accountable and ensuring that they’re complying with the terms of their permits,” Minor says.
The public is invited to a virtual community engagement session on May 1 at 5:30 p.m. to discuss the workplan in more detail. Register for the meeting and find information on CDPHE’s upcoming community opportunities: bit.ly/COEnvironmentalJustice
Boulderite seeks help heading to Miss Wheelchair America
After being crowned Miss Wheelchair Colorado this February, Jenn Ochs hopes to head to Grand Rapids, Michigan, in late August to win the title of Miss Wheelchair America.
Unlike the aesthetic focus of traditional pageants, Miss Wheelchair America judges a contestant’s ability to advocate for those in wheelchairs. The week-long competition will require Ochs to write an essay, give a speech, show her advocacy accomplishments and complete two interviews with competition judges.
But Ochs needs some help getting there. She recently launched a GoFundMe to raise $4,000 to cover the $2,000 pageant entrance fee and travel expenses for Ochs and her mother.
Ochs hopes to take her message nationwide, advocating for independent living for people with disabilities.
“I live independently in the community and want more people with disabilities to know that they can too,” Ochs told BW via email. However, Ochs says, “independent living is only possible with reliable home health. Low pay and little to no benefits has [caused] many direct care workers to leave the industry, causing a nationwide shortage of direct care workers.”
To support Och’s GoFundMe, visit bit.ly/MissWheelchairAmerica
Free COVID-19 vaccines available
Buses loaded with COVID-19 vaccines are touring around the state, including Boulder, to provide low-barrier care to communities.
The state is making a final push to distribute COVID vaccines before May 11, when the federal government will end its public health emergency declaration. After that date, Coloradans can still keep up with their vaccinations through hundreds of vaccine providers across the state.
Coloradans ages 6 months and older are eligible to receive the vaccine for free — no insurance, identification or medical history is required. Appointments are encouraged, but walk-ups are accepted.
So far, the state’s vaccine buses have made more than 6,000 stops in 62 counties in the state.
The bus will be in Boulder on Friday, April 14 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Out Boulder County (3340 Mitchell Lane, Boulder), but it will make more trips to Boulder and Broomfield before May 11.
Learn more and book an appointment at covid19.colorado.gov.
Study links encampment ‘sweeps’ with drug-related deaths
At least 500,000 people are experiencing homelessness on a given night in the U.S. Around 30% of those people also have a substance use disorder.
One study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association aims to understand how “involuntary displacement” (also known as “sweeps” or “cleanups”), a common measure used by cities across the country, impacts people experiencing homelessness who inject drugs.
Through simulation modeling of 23 cities, including Denver, researchers found that involuntary displacement can lead to “substantial increases in morbidity and mortality over a 10-year period,” and it is estimated to worsen factors like overdoses and hospitalizations.
According to lead author Joshua Barocas, an associate professor at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus specializing in infectious disease and substance use disorder, there’s a lack of evidence guiding decision making.
“People on the front lines have been telling leaders that these sweeps are detrimental, but anecdotes only go so far,” he wrote in an email to Boulder Weekly. “Policymakers should incorporate evidence into their decision making, and we hope to add to that evidence base.”
In its 2023 budget, the City of Boulder allocated nearly $1.3 million to expanding its Safe and Managed Spaces program, which included adding an “encampment management” team to enforce the citywide camping ban. The City also shortened the amount of time it gives people participating in unsanctioned camping to clean up and leave under some circumstances.
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