LaFayette Sun

University pitches COVID community development plan

By John West

On Monday evening, Dr. Arturo Menefee of the Equitable Neighborhoods Initiative, spoke to the LaFayette City Council about starting a program in LaFayette to help address issues related to COVID-19. The Equitable Neighborhoods Initiative is part of the University of Alabama Center for Economic Development. LaFayette is one of 15 communities this initiative is reaching out to work with.

Criteria that the initiative looked at to decide which communities it would reach out to included COVID transmission rate, social vulnerability index, and poverty levels, among other things. “The city of LaFayette was one of 15 communities that we identified that we would like to work with,” Menefee said.

“Its essentially a program that wants to assist communities in terms of addressing COVID-19 issues,” he said. “We want to focus on populations that are at high risk or considered underserved including racial and ethnic minorities as well as in rural communities.”

The program would entail having a local coordinator and an advisory group leading the community development efforts. The coordinator and advisory group would have the assistance and state resources provided by Menefee’s office. “We would have someone here locally working on that for us,” Menefee said. Another aspect is reaching out to the youth and establishing a youth community council. “When you’re talking about doing anything in terms of developing the community you got to have the youth involved,” Menefee said. The Initiative also wants to establish what Menefee called a “healing zone.” He elaborated by saying it would be a “natural outdoor space, which many would consider a natural park, or something of that nature.” This outdoor space could be worked into an existing park or be an entirely new space according to Menefee.

While the program is expected to last for two years, Menefee gave an end date of May 2023.

This effort would come at no cost to LaFayette. Rather, Menefee’s initiative is funded by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, and the Alabama Department of Public Health.

This program is unrelated to the ONmed program Auburn University is planning in partnership with LaFayette.

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