Articles tagged with: healthcare

Let’s Rethink This Chooses Meta J Mereday as January’s “Impact Journalist”

Let’s Rethink This Chooses Meta J Mereday as January’s “Impact Journalist”

Let’s Rethink This Chooses Meta J Mereday as January’s “Impact Journalist”

Meta J Mereday is a Civilian First Responder, better known as a Domestic Warrior, with a family background rooted in the military with even deeper and even deeper roots in community, social and economic justice by way of advocating for veterans and other under-served constituencies. How best to bring attention to these diverse areas – and so much more – than to write about them to bring awareness and, ideally, positive change?

That predilection dates to grade school, where teachers were able to channel her creative talents and energy through writing and leading initiatives. They found they could keep her busy by supplying her with sufficient quantities of pencils and paper in addition to artistic and collaborative projects. She tutored students in her class and younger students and served as Office Assistant. This multifaceted formula continued during her years at Roosevelt Jr - Sr High School (Roosevelt, NY) where she mastered numerous activities including All County in Music, playing three musical instruments for Orchestra, Concert and Marching Bands and served as Sports Broadcaster and Editor for the Yearbook. She was named Class Speaker and Most Artistic.

 While pursuing her degree at San Jose State University’s (San Jose, CA) School of Journalism and Mass Communications, she continued to freelance and incorporate her creative talents to design photo layouts and promotional pieces for aspiring publishers and local business owners. There, she refined her writing and editing and graduated with a BA in Advertising and Speech Communication. Years later the school honored her in a blog profiling her work and community service. (Editor’s Note: SJSU is my Alma Mater)

“I am cause-activated,” she says. “Injustices motivate me.” Derogatory remarks by some NFL officials while she was attending a sports event motivated her to become a member of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and to be Co-Founder of the National Black Public Relations Society, Inc. Upon her return she returned to New York, she attended Hofstra University (Hempstead, NY) to add an MBA to her profile to add to her credentials and focus on economic empowerment to “raise all boats” to potentially equally levels.

Fast-forward to 2013

We have to get here quickly to get to today’s accomplishments, saving me from having to catalog past numerous heroic efforts (For example, she became known as a 9-11 Civilian First Responder and Front Line Media Correspondent during her volunteer service at Ground Zero immediately following the attacks on September 11, 2001 and reporting onsite to various media outlets including live for a television station in in Columbia, SC.). While advocating for diverse business inclusion for the rebuild of lower Manhattan and seeing the need to build up veteran-owned businesses to create jobs for unemployed veterans; she launched VEDI, Inc (Veteran Entrepreneurial Development Initiatives) as a New York State not-for-profit to address a growing need within the Veteran Owned Business and Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business (VOB/SDVOBs) for growth and development training. VEDI, Inc has become a national resource for veteran business development and veteran community advocacy.

VEDI, Inc is a task force member of the National Veterans Business Development Council whose mission is to increase the certifications for veteran-owned businesses and to help grow their operations and create jobs to reduce veteran unemployment.

Now, let’s get back to her journalism chops. Meta was recognized by the nonprofit Military Veterans in Journalism (MVJ) recently when they selected her to be included in their Expert Directory in recognition of her longstanding involvement in reporting on veterans issues and her advocacy for veterans and their families.

Lastly, Meta’s participation with the collaboration Veteran Mission Possible (VMP) is a story in itself. Like several other “Solution Providers” that found their way to our site, she made submisstions to an initiative launched by the VA entitled Mission Possible to see if she could secure a share of the $25M in grant funding. There were 1,370 competitors (VMP was one of them). She (and we) were not among the 40 chosen. However, when she discovered that VMP had started a community to give people “a second chance to make a first impression,” she came right to our doorstep. And, discovered that we were/are a key affiliate of MVJ. Having yet another opportunity to showcase her talents to uplift proactive solutions to combat the issues impacting our veterans and their families – and our nation as a whole – was right where she needed to be.

How could we not select her? 

Meta Mereday selected for expert directory

Meta Mereday selected for expert directory

Meta J. Mereday, president and founder of the Veterans Entrepreneurial Development Initiative from Baldwin, was selected to be included in the Military Veterans in Journalism’s expert directory on Nov. 11 in recognition of Veteran's Day.

Mereday, who was a civilian responder at the world trade center attacks in 2001, is an advocate for veterans, and a media executive. She was recently included in MVJ’s esteemed list that includes veteran and civilian experts in military and veterans’ affairs and community coverage. Military Veterans in Journalism, a non-profit news institute, focuses on getting more military veterans working in America’s newsrooms and providing balanced coverage about veterans and their issues.

“Being selected in the directory speaks to the importance of having informed civilians in the military journalistic space,” said Mereday. “We need as many people involved to fully understand and be aware of the needs of our veterans and their families."

According to the United States Census, approximately 7 percent of Americans have served in the armed forces, however; only two percent of media professionals are military veterans. Military Veterans in Journalism recently launched an extensive media guide to provide a broad range of resources to increase the hiring and utilization of veterans as journalists.

“The directory serves to combat the many misconceptions about veterans by giving journalists a resource to speak with experts in the field,” said Mereday.

 Their “expert guide” provides style points and useful resources to better understand and report on the military community and includes an expert directory that features established content leaders with expertise in the understanding of the veteran community and awareness regarding effective and informative coverage.

Mereday, who is a nationally recognized advocate for veterans and media expert, was included in the directory due to her longstanding involvement in reporting on and advocacy for veterans and their families. In addition to being a 9-11 First Responder following the September 11th attacks on the United States, where she provided support for recovery teams at Ground Zero, she also reported directly from the site to national media.

Mereday also witnessed firsthand and reported on the preparation for soldiers via the innovative Military Journalism Experience 2012 that she took part in with an immersive experience at both Fort Leavenworth and Fort Leonard Wood. During this experience, the selected group of journalists participated in morning exercises, disarmament activities, training sessions and briefings along with graduation exercises preparing America’s military.

As the Founder of Veterans Entrepreneurial Development Initiatives (VEDI), Inc., she has been a staunch advocate for veterans and drafted many stories and initiatives to improve the transition for veterans into successful civilian lives and to help their caregivers.

With a focus on diversity and inclusion, Mereday has served on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Black Journalists where she coordinated an event with the US Army that recognized Black and Hispanic Veterans including those who were journalists during the historic Unity Conference. She is also a co-founder of the National Black Public Relations Society, Inc.

Most recently, Mereday joined forces with the collaborative venture Veteran Mission Possible to provide media support and to assist with platforms to address the high rates of suicide and medical debt within the military. She is the co-founder and senior editor of Influence-DiCOTA, a diverse, global multimedia platform that is a job creator for under-utilized creative people of color, and the Veterans Entrepreneurial Development Initative, Inc. and was welcomed to the Task Force of the National Veteran Business Development Council's Military and Veteran Task Force to increase awareness and opportunities for veteran-owned businesses to create jobs for other veterans.

“I am humbled and appreciative of this recognition with MVJ, and I look forward to engaging with others who are featured in the directory to achieve MVJ’s mission to not only increase and diversify the number of military journalists, but to improve the coverage of veterans throughout the media itself,” said Mereday. “The diversity and inclusion focus within MVJ resonates with me and it ensures that inclusive and accurate coverage will be a priority.”

Originally published in LI Herald by Andre Silva.

VA & Non-VA Healthcare Facilities Now Free for Veterans in Suicide Crisis

Starting Jan. 17, Veterans in suicidal crisis can go to any VA or non-VA health care facility for free emergency health care

VA & Non-VA Healthcare Facilities Now Free for Veterans in Suicide Crisis

WASHINGTON – Starting Jan. 17, Veterans in acute suicidal crisis will be able to go to any VA or non-VA health care facility for emergency health care at no cost – including inpatient or crisis residential care for up to 30 days and outpatient care for up to 90 days. Veterans do not need to be enrolled in the VA system to use this benefit.

This expansion of care will help prevent Veteran suicide by guaranteeing no cost, world-class care to Veterans in times of crisis. It will also increase access to acute suicide care for up to 9 million Veterans who are not currently enrolled in VA.

Preventing Veteran suicide is VA’s top clinical priority and a top priority of the Biden-Harris Administration. This effort is a key part of VA’s 10-year National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide and the Biden-Harris administration’s plan for Reducing Military and Veteran Suicide. In September, VA released the 2022 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, which showed that Veteran suicides decreased in 2020 for the second year in a row, and that fewer Veterans died by suicide in 2020 than in any year since 2006.

“Veterans in suicidal crisis can now receive the free, world-class emergency health care they deserve – no matter where they need it, when they need it, or whether they’re enrolled in VA care,” said VA Secretary for Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough. “This expansion of care will save Veterans’ lives, and there’s nothing more important than that.” 

VA has submitted an interim final rule to the federal register to establish this authority

under section 201 of the Veterans Comprehensive Prevention, Access to Care, and Treatment (COMPACT) Act of 2020. The final policy, which takes effect on Jan. 17, will allow VA to:

  • Provide, pay for, or reimburse for treatment of eligible individuals’ emergency suicide care, transportation costs, and follow-up care at a VA or non-VA facility for up to 30 days of inpatient care and 90 days of outpatient care.
  • Make appropriate referrals for care following the period of emergency suicide care.
  • Determine eligibility for other VA services and benefits.
  • Refer eligible individuals for appropriate VA programs and benefits following the period of emergency suicide care.

Eligible individuals, regardless of VA enrollment status, are:

  • Veterans who were discharged or released from active duty after more than 24 months of active service under conditions other than dishonorable.
  • Former members of the armed forces, including reserve service members, who served more than 100 days under a combat exclusion or in support of a contingency operation either directly or by operating an unmanned aerial vehicle from another location who were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.
  • Former members of the armed forces who were the victim of a physical assault of a sexual nature, a battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment while serving in the armed forces.

Over the past year, VA has announced or continued several additional efforts to end Veteran suicide, including establishing 988 (then press 1) as a way for Veterans to quickly connect with caring, qualified crisis support 24/7; proposing a new rule that would reduce or eliminate copayments for Veterans at risk of suicide; conducting an ongoing public outreach effort on firearm suicide prevention and lethal means safety; and leveraging a national Veteran suicide prevention awareness campaign, “Don’t Wait. Reach Out.” 

Ending Veteran Suicide: Let’s Rethink This…

Ending Veteran Suicide: Let’s Rethink This…

The rates of veteran suicide are unacceptably high. Veterans deserve the best care. They sacrifice so much for all of us, and they deserve much better care than they’re getting for the consequences of their sacrifices. One organization that’s seeking to address this problem is Let’s Rethink This.

I work for a company called First Tracks. It’s a public benefit corporation. And our work is featured in this article by Jerry Ashton, the founder of Let’s Rethink This. First Tracks is about putting together mental health solutions for employers that work. We’re focused on making sure people who are in the most need get the right help. Often, that is veterans.

I’m thrilled that our work has been mentioned in this dispatch, and I hope you follow along, because this is a health problem we can’t afford to ignore.

Jerry Ashton is one of the people behind RIP Medical Debt. This organization is responsible for eliminating over $7 billion in medical debt. Now, his focus is on ending veterans’ medical debt and ending veteran suicide, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be working with Jerry and everyone who is on this mission to help our veterans!

You can read the article here!

It’s a Wonderful Life and Veteran Suicide

It’s that terrible/joyful holiday period when we push aside our pains and disappointments to join with the joy of the season and imagine a coming year full of wonders and possibilities.

Of those pains here in America, none is greater than that of the specter of suicide, especially those among our military veterans – now averaging 44 per day. 44 per day!!!

Can we ever hope for a time when those numbers abate, and the tragedies recede? Yes, if we just take lessons from the much-beloved movie classic, It’s a Wonderful Life and bring them into practice in our own lives. Read more in Jerry’s new article!

—Owen Scott Muir, M.D.

I need you to do one thing—Spread the word!


Medical Debt Is Being Erased in Ohio and Illinois. Is Your Town Next?

Cook County, Ill., and Toledo, Ohio, are turning to the American Rescue Plan to wipe out residents’ medical debt. Experts caution it is a short-term solution.

Medical Debt Is Being Erased in Ohio and Illinois. Is Your Town Next?

Editors note: A glimpse of the power of awareness. Once people learn of solutions, they next educate themselves (can you actually abolish medical debt?) and then put those remedies to work. The Veteran Mission Possible campaign, itself an outgrowth of the RIP Medical Debt charity co-founded by Jerry Ashton, will incorporate medical debt relief specifically dedicated to veterans in 2023. Stay tuned.)

In the next few weeks, tens of thousands of people in Cook County, Ill., will open their mailboxes to find a letter from the county government explaining that their medical debt has been paid off.

Officials in New Orleans and Toledo, Ohio, are finalizing contracts so that tens of thousands of residents can receive a similar letter in the coming year. In Pittsburgh on Dec. 19, the City Council approved a budget that would include $1 million for medical debt relief.

More local governments are likely to follow as county executives and city councils embrace a new strategy to address the high cost of health care. They are partnering with RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit that aims to abolish medical debt by buying it from hospitals, health systems and collections agencies at a steep discount.

“What we need in this country is universal health care, clearly,” Toni Preckwinkle, the president of the Board of Commissioners in Cook County, said. “But we’re not there as a nation yet, and so those of us who are responsible for local units of government have to do everything we can to make health care available, accessible to people.”

About 18 percent of Americans have medical debt that has been turned over to a third party for collection, according to a report published in July 2021 in the medical journal JAMA. That figure does not account for medical debt that is carried on credit cards or all medical bills owed to providers. Research shows that people with medical debt are less likely to seek needed care and that medical debt can damage people’s credit and make it more difficult for them to secure employment.

Cook County plans to spend $12 million on medical debt relief and expects to erase debt for the first batch of beneficiaries by early January. In Lucas County, Ohio, and its largest city, Toledo, up to $240 million in medical debt could be paid off at a cost of $1.6 million. New Orleans is looking to spend $1.3 million to clear $130 million in medical debt. The $1 million in Pittsburgh’s budget could wipe out $115 million in debt, officials said.

ProMedica Toledo Hospital is one of the largest hospitals in Toledo, where the city, Lucas County and RIP Medical Debt are working out a $1.6 million plan to relieve eligible residents of medical debt.Credit...James Dickerson for The New York Times

These initiatives are all being funded by President Biden’s trillion-dollar American Rescue Plan, which infused local governments with cash to spend on infrastructure, public services and economic relief programs. Health policy experts say that while medical debt relief provides an immediate benefit to people, it does not address the root causes of medical debt, which is almost nonexistent outside the United States.

To be eligible for debt relief through RIP Medical Debt, people must have a household income up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $111,000 for a family of four, or have medical debts that exceed 5 percent of their annual income. People cannot apply to be considered for debt relief, and they do not pay taxes on the purchase of their debt. RIP Medical Debt analyzes debt portfolios to determine who qualifies.

Wendy Pestrue, the chief executive of the United Way of Greater Toledo, said debt relief could remove a source of economic stress for the 43 percent of families who either were living in poverty or were unable to afford housing, child care, food, transportation or health care in Toledo, which has a population of nearly 269,000.

“It puts some of this economic strength back in the hands of those who are having debt exonerated and really helps them plan for their stability,” she said.

Michele Grim, who joined Toledo’s City Council in January 2022, pushed for some of the city’s $180 million in American Rescue Plan funds to be used for medical debt relief after she read about the Cook County initiative.

Michele Grim is one of the leading voices behind Toledo’s use of the American Rescue Plan for medical debt relief.Credit...James Dickerson for The New York Times

“Here’s something so simple that local governments can do, maybe even state governments can do, to really help ease that burden on people, because we really need an overhaul in our system, and that’s going to take years,” said Ms. Grim, who is leaving the council at the end of the year because she was elected in November to be a Democratic state representative.

Toledo’s City Council voted 7-5 on Nov. 9 to provide $800,000 to pay off the debts. Its contribution was matched by Lucas County, resulting in $1.6 million for medical debt relief. The city, the county and RIP Medical Debt are now working out a contract.

One council member who opposed the plan was George Sarantou, who said that he voted against it because his top funding priority was public safety, including upgrading city fire stations and police vehicles. While Mr. Sarantou said he was not opposed to medical debt relief, he was concerned about state funding for cities and villages, which is expected to be 1.66 percent of Ohio’s 2022-23 budget. “Ohio has the money,” he said. “Toledo does not.”

Medical debt relief appears to be popular. A poll by Tulchin Research found that 71 percent of respondents supported it. Fifty percent supported relieving student loan debt, 65 percent supported “Medicare for all” and 68 percent supported expanding Medicaid. The national poll of 1,500 people was conducted online from Nov. 14 to 20, after the Toledo vote, and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points. (Ms. Grim’s husband works for the polling company.)

This debt relief comes as states change how medical debt is treated.

In November, Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York signed legislation that blocked health care providers from using property liens or garnishing wages to collect medical debt. The day before the Toledo City Council vote, 72 percent of Arizona voters chose to lower interest rates for medical debt and to increase protections for people who owe debt, though a judge has since halted part of the measure.

Officials in Toledo and other cities are partnering with a nonprofit organization that aims to abolish medical debt by buying it from hospitals, health systems and collections agencies at a steep discount.Credit...James Dickerson for The New York Times

Wesley Yin, an associate professor of economics at the University of California, Los Angeles, said medical debt relief could be a “game changer” for some people, but governments should also be addressing the causes of medical debt, including high costs and limited access to good health insurance.

In partnership with RIP Medical Debt, Professor Yin is studying how the group’s work affects people’s livelihoods. “I believe there are some positive effects economically, but it might be more muted compared to the face value of the debt that is being forgiven,” he said.

Daniel Skinner, a health policy professor at Ohio University in Athens, said that debt relief was “low-hanging fruit,” considering that the mean amount of medical debt people carry is in the hundreds, not tens of thousands, of dollars.

“We need to get the cost of medicine under control, ultimately,” Professor Skinner said. “I’m all for what Toledo is doing, I’m all for what Cook County and now New Orleans are doing, but, ultimately, we can’t come back every couple of years and do this. It’s not good policy, it’s not efficient.”

Supporters of debt relief measures agree that there is more to be done.

RIP Medical Debt’s chief executive, Allison Sesso, said that a key part of the group’s work was to further discussions about changing the health care system.

In the past two years, RIP Medical Debt has placed more of an emphasis on buying debt directly from hospitals and health systems, before it reaches collectors. Ms. Sesso said that this gave the group a direct channel to talk with hospitals about how their own health repayment plans for low-income patients work. Some of the people whose debt RIP Medical Debt buys should have qualified for these programs in the first place, but they were not enrolled, she said.

“I do this job every day, and I appreciate that what we’re doing is really important and helpful for the individuals that we are helping and it’s resolving this problem for them,” Ms. Sesso said. “At the same time, I can’t help but wonder and question why my existence as an institution is needed in the first place.”

By Amanda Holpuch

Let's Rethink This is licensed under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) 4.0 License


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