BAKERSFIELD, Calif — Various communities across the nation have been impacted disproportionately by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The state has allocated 40% of doses for those hardest hit communities and people in Kern County are working hard to get as many impacted people vaccinated as possible. One of those communities includes the American Indian and Alaskan Natives, which is why the Bakersfield American Indian Health Project will host an event on Friday, May 14th, to help spread awareness about health resources available in the community.
“There is a lot of health disparities that effect the American Indian and Alaskan Native people,” Angel Galvez, CEO of the Bakersfield American Indian Health Project said.
The Bakersfield American Indian Health Project is working towards bringing the 23,000 American Indian and Alaskan Natives in Kern County the health support that they need, especially during the pandemic.
“Our clients in our community are at a greater risk of severe disease of COVID and for death,” Carrie Smith, a Nurse with Public Health said.
Over the past few months, the organization has been working towards getting the Kern County Native American community vaccinated, but Galvez feels that there needs to be more advocacy about overall health within the community.
“There are a lot of challenges within our Native American community, infrastructure, support for technology and some of those barriers limit the outreach that our organization attempts to do,” Galvez said.
On Friday, the BAIHP will host an all day health equity event providing resources and information about COVID-19 as well as assess the mental and medical health disparities within the American Indian community.
“Quite a few in our American Indian and Alaskan Native population try not to share so much with others, they keep it private, so maybe they aren’t reaching out for the help that they need,” Rhonda Garone, an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist said.
According to Garone, throughout the American Indian and Alaskan American community, there has been an increase in anxiety, depression, and substance abuse relapse since the start of the pandemic.
“To me, health equity means that all people have access to all medical care. Whether it is behavioral health or medical care, but it is equal across the board, that all people get the help that they need,” Smith said.
The Friday event will also include panelists and health professionals to help answer questions to anyone in the community who attends.
"This is an opportunity for our community to connect to one another so that we can address our communities mental health needs, so please come out and join us,” Smith said.