By Cherie Bledsoe and Brenda Adams

SIDE Inc., our peer-led support organization, is located in Kansas City, Kansas. In Wyandotte County, we are in the center of our downtown. We serve a membership of individuals with mental health and substance abuse disorders. We have employees that provide peer support.

Our organization has been committed to attending advocacy day at the Capitol yearly to lobby on Medicaid expansion, giving testimonies to elected officials. I remember a young adult shared her story about the need for dental care—she said her teeth were rotten and she felt that’s why she could not get a job. I thought “Wow! If she had that resource, it would empower her to seek employment and it would give her purpose and meaning to live a quality life.”

Stories like this are told year after year at the Capitol. Our peers deserve affordable health care. Our life expectancy is 25 percent less than the general population because we don’t have the proper supports and resources centered around health care. Wyandotte County’s poverty rate is 23 percent, according to the Wyandotte Foundation.

In the last 12 months, Wyandot Center has served approximately 435 clients who identified as homeless. Even before the COVID-19 crisis, our organization struggled to meet the needs of members who were homeless. We had to divert our programing to assist our homeless peers, such as monies for bus passes, food, clothes, and escorts for persons to crisis stabilization. Medicaid expansion would be a cost-effective way to decrease the revolving doors of incarceration, homelessness, and poor mental and physical health.

We deserve to be productive members of society.

Cherie Bledsoe and Brenda Adams are members of the SIDE Inc., Board of Directors