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Richmonders Involved to Strengthen our Communities

Tonight Valerie and I went to Good Shepherd Baptist Church in Church Hill to attend the Nehemiah Action for an interdenominational/interfaith group called Richmonders Involved to Strengthen our Communities, or RISC. It's called a Nehemiah Action based on the story of Jerusalem's rebuilding in the book of Nehemiah from the Old Testament of the Bible, and the focus is on bringing issues of social justice before those in the city of Richmond with the power to change policies. Last year they voted on issues to pursue and study, and tonight a committee ranging from a priest to a rabbi presented findings and requests related to three topics: drugs/crime, education, and healthcare.

The first section addressed the affects of drug addicts in the city jail and included a plan to use treatment programs to help reduce recidivism. Mayor Jones was present to face questions of commitment and gave reassuring responses. RISC's next step involves lobbying the city council to fund a pilot program that's expected to help up to 120 inmates per year.

The discussion of education was eye-opening. The focus was on reducing the rates of drop-outs and out-of-school suspensions, and some of the findings were a little shocking - particularly that a serious chunk of out-of-school suspensions were for being out of school in the first place (truancy, etc.). There was a recommendation to adopt a city-wide disciplinary program, but I got the impression this was a more recently adopted issue with earlier-stage research.

The final issue was health care, and specifically the provision of primary care for the poor and uninsured. The organization has been working with VCU's health system to improve primary care for those in need by more efficiently disseminating information about care centers and and hours for the Virginia Coordinated Care program. The requests included conducting setting real benchmarks to measure improvement in the program and follow-up meetings with RISC.

I'm a sucker for numbers so I kinda want to see the actual research they collected in their studies, but I'd say it was a pretty good night over all. It's good to see congregations joining together to help the city this way, and I intend to follow the suggestions presented tonight. I'll be praying for them as well.