As Louisiana considers seeking approval to require able-bodied Medicaid recipients to work or volunteer for benefits, we must ensure the program is a win-win for participants and their communities.
The Pelican State must develop substantive programming that ties volunteerism to getting people job skills and into the workforce.
As vulnerable adults begin contributing to their community, they feel a sense of pride, accomplishment and dignity. They are viewed as part of the solution — not part of the problem.
This isn’t just wishful thinking. The National Center for Families Learning, a national non-profit, has seen transformation of individuals and communities across the country when people are able to contribute, volunteer, work and see the benefits of their actions. NCFL works to eradicate poverty through education solutions for families.
Over the past 30 years we have impacted the lives of more than 2 million families in 150 cities and 39 states (including Louisiana).
These accomplishments can be duplicated under new Medicaid requirements: Meaningful volunteerism through the creation of a Family Service Learning program that develops participants’ workforce skills. Families are strengthened through two-generation literacy programs, such as NCFL Family Learning, that include Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time, Parent Time, and family-to-family mentoring. Adults learn/gain computer skills, academic skills and skills for teamwork, problem solving, and communication. Access to high-school equivalency degrees can be improved.
In 2017, half of participants got a job, got a better job, or earned more money.
Louisiana could amplify these positive results by pulling together Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to create a comprehensive system.
Take, for example, NCFL’s work in Mississippi. Through a partnership with the Mississippi Department of Human Services and two social service agencies, whole families participate in Family Service Learning projects, PACT Time, and family-to-family mentoring. In addition, participants have access to free classes for literacy, parenting, life skills, workforce development and education services.
If Louisiana chooses to apply for and is granted the Medicaid waiver, the state should use the opportunity to improve the human condition, move people to self-sufficiency, and break generational cycles of poverty by implementing a comprehensive program. Let’s make Louisiana an example to the rest of the country.
president, National Center for Families Learning