The town of Orange is looking to hear from the public before any decision is made about declaring racism as a public health crisis.
Jody Dietch is one of the people inside the town of Orange who is calling on leaders to declare racism as a public health crisis.
“It’s not a socio-economic issue, it’s an issue of making the minorities in Orange know that we care and taking the steps to show that we care,” said Dietch. “There are still issues that arise just from being a minority living in a predominately white community.”
Dietch told NBC Connecticut that equity is the goal behind the effort, so that communities of color have a chance to receive what she said are basic human needs. Some of those needs include educational resources, affordable housing and access to health care.
“Whether it’s physical, emotional, or psychological, those are all areas where you see that there are disparities,” said Dietch.
Since July, at least 17 towns and cities have declared racism as a public health crisis and some diversity experts believe changes are neccessary.
“There’s a lot of policies and practices that we have in our society that keep people from being their best and a lot of those tend to be bifurcated based on race,” said Dr. Lorenzo Boyd, vice president of Diversity and Inclusion at the University of New Haven.
The first selectman of Orange said that he’s open to the idea of a declaration but feels a plan to bring forth equity is needed first.
“There are so many things that are unknown and I think more needs to be determined,” said James Zeoli, first selectman with the Town of Orange. “We want to know how this will affect our police and fire departments, our education system, housing and other sectors that make up our town.”
Other leaders agree a plan is needed to move forward but want to see leaders at least make the first step to bring forth changes to systemic racism.
“If we can help our fellow residents be feel more comfortable living in our town, I think we should do everything that we can to make that happen,” said Dietch. “The one thing we need to have is a level of accountablity because when we see things are wrong we need to fix it,” said Boyd.
The town forum is an opportunity for the community to voice their concerns, ask questions and have a discussion about what the declaration could mean for the town. The town has yet to announce if they will declare racism as a public health crisis.