To download this MP3 or listen on a smartphone that doesn’t allow flash, click here.
All this year, Michigan Radio’s Morning Edition host Christina Shockley has been asking people from across Michigan for the their ideas on how to improve things. The series is called 3 Things and today, we hear from Jack Kresnak, President and CEO of Michigan’s Children.
Mr. Kresnak begins by encouraging Michigan to focus more on the development of children during the first few years of their lives. He says, “We cannot start talking about a bright future for Michigan without including the children who will be our future.”
Unfortunately, Kresnak says that one out of every four children in Michigan currently live below the poverty line. “Those earliest years in life are the most critical for these kids,” Kresnak continues, “Certainly families living in poverty are at a high risk of having a toxic environment for these children.”
As to how individuals in the state can help children living in poverty, Kresnak says, “We need advocates. We need people to speak up on behalf of our children and our future workforce.”
With a new governor set to take over in Lansing, Kresnak is optimistic about the possibility of child well-being becoming a major priority in the state. “For every dollar invested in quality early childcare and early-childhood education programs, the State saves seventeen dollars,” says Kresnak, adding, “In 2009, the state saved 1.1 billion dollars with its investments in early childhood. We could save a lot more.”
Mr. Kresnak focuses on increasing access to health care for children for his second idea. While there are doctors and pediatricians who accept Medicaid in Michigan, their numbers are decreasing rapidly. “The State continues to cut the rates for reimbursements for those physicians,” says Kresnak, “In 2005, because of budget problems, they cut four percent in the reimbursement rate for pediatricians. In 2010, they cut another eight percent in reimbursement rates, and this means that fewer and fewer physicians are willing to accept Medicaid patients.”
To illustrate this problem, Kresnak points to the current situation in Detroit. He says, “There are only five pediatricians in the city of Detroit to handle well over 100,000 children. So, many of those kids have Medicaid, but they don’t have access to a physician willing to accept Medicaid.”
Meanwhile, Kresnak says that politicians in Lansing are passing up federal funds aimed at helping states provide access to health care. “There’s 100,000,000 dollars of federal money that Michigan has let go. But because we can’t afford or we won’t pay for the twenty-five percent match, we’re letting other states get that money.”
Since children aren’t likely to contact Lansing about the scarcity of physicians who accept Medicaid in their area, Kresnak says Michigan citizens must speak up for them. “This is a critical need,” says Kresnak, “The future of our state cannot be healthy if our children are not healthy.”
For his final idea, Kresnak says Michigan needs to develop a “cradle-to-career vision” for its children. He says that Michigan’s problems with education cannot be solved without focusing on the very earliest stages of childhood development. “Without the investments in young children, the state’s attempts to improve schools will not succeed,” he says, “And without investments in these same young people who struggle to stay engaged with school, or who have already become disengaged, the state’s attempts to expand access to higher education and modernize our economy will not work.”
Rather than having educational policies aimed at certain segments of childhood development, Kresnak argues for a more holistic approach. “Our problem is we have too many silos of funding and policies that affect certain segments of children aged zero to twenty,” says Kresnak, “If we had, for example, a P-20 council in our state, like thirty other states do, we could better coordinate the services and target those vulnerable children who need the help.”
- Eliot Johnson