Rhode Island launches participatory budgeting process for health investments

As part of the work to advance health equity and strategically address the social determinants of health, the Rhode Island Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) and the Department of Health of Rhode Island (RIDOH) today announce the launch of a pilot participatory budgeting project. This project is undertaken in collaboration with two partners from the Health Equity Zone (HEZ) (health.ri.gov/hez).

Participatory budgeting is a democratic process that allows community members to decide directly how to spend part of a public budget. Following a structured process, residents of each community will have the opportunity to come together to identify community needs, generate ideas on how to meet them, and then vote directly on how to spend the funds. to address the upstream social determinants of health and racial inequalities. The winning projects will then be announced and implemented.

Between July 1, 2022 and June 30, 2024, $900,000 will be awarded by two Health Equity Zones (HEZ) – Central Providence Opportunities HEZ (CPO-HEZ), supported by backbone agency ONE Neighborhood Builders, and Pawtucket Central Falls HEZ, supported by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). Each HEZ will receive $450,000. Additionally, Central Providence Opportunities HEZ will deepen its impact by investing an additional $550,000 in private grants. The community of Central Providence will therefore have a total of $1 million to invest as part of its participatory budgeting process.

“At EOHHS and the agencies under our umbrella, we are committed to creating opportunities for active engagement for the communities we serve,” said Ana Novais, acting secretary of the Rhode Island Executive Office of Health and Human Services. . “What differentiates participatory budgeting from traditional budgeting and decision-making processes is that it creates an intentional space around the table for those experiencing systemic racism and income inequality. It empowers members community real decision-making power over real money.”

“Health disparities result from underlying factors in our physical, social, political and economic environments,” said Acting Chief Health Officer Utpala Bandy, MD, MPH. “It’s exciting to see a project like this take root in Rhode Island. Not only do I look forward to seeing the innovative projects and solutions that arise from this work to advance health equity, but also how involving residents in the process itself improves community cohesion, health and well-being. Healthy communities are connected and collaborative communities.”

Initiatives using participatory budgeting have taken place in Rhode Island with great success.

“Participatory budgeting has played such an important role in Central Falls over the past few years,” said Central Falls Council President Jessica Vega. “To provide a space where residents are encouraged to think critically about how to improve the quality of life in their community. The Rhode Island Health and Human Services Executive Office’s initiative to scale up participatory budgeting through the HEZ Central Falls/Pawtucket and Central Providence is exciting, timely and important for improving health and promoting equity in our communities.”

New community leaders are growing and emerging from the process, such as Karen Figueroa, a 2021 graduate of Central Falls High School and current freshman at Salve Regina University, who was a member of the first Participatory Budget Steering Committee in Central Falls and has been involved in participatory budgeting processes in Central Falls ever since. “Participatory budgeting gives underrepresented individuals the right to have their voices heard and enables them to be at the forefront of change in their communities,” Figueroa said.

“Six years ago, Rhode Island took a transformational step toward a revolutionary approach to addressing community health by creating the Health Equity Zone initiative as a mechanism to listen to residents who deeply understood the needs of their community. This approach This place-based and community-led approach has led to significant changes in service delivery and improvements in the social determinants of health,” said Jeanne Cola, executive director of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). of Rhode Island. LISC is the lead agency for the HEZ of Pawtucket Central Falls. “This process of participatory budgeting – where the community comes together to decide how funds are invested – is the next logical step in the process of cultivating the community. agency, empowerment and empowerment of residents as agents of change.”

“Community members will help shape the decision-making process, allocate resources and build relationships with each other. We believe the participatory budgeting process is just as important as the financial investment,” said Jennifer Hawkins, executive director of ONE Neighborhood Builders. “We invite residents of postcodes 02908 and 02909 to contact us to learn more about how they can share the issues that affect them and work together to help fund equitable solutions.” The initial investment of $900,000 comes from funds from the Health System Transformation Project (HSTP). The Health System Transformation Project is Rhode Island Medicaid’s value-based payment initiative that aims to reduce health care costs, improve quality of care, and improve population health outcomes.

Originating in Brazil in 1989, participatory budgeting has since been implemented by governments and organizations in over 7,000 cities around the world and has demonstrated its impact on increasing civic engagement, resulting in fairer and more efficient public spending.

For more information on how to get involved in participatory processes in your city, contact:

Providence: pb@onenb.org

Pawtucket, Central Falls: Becki Marcus Assistant Program Officer Community Initiative Support Corporation rbmarcus2@lisc.org