Child Welfare and Sex Trafficking in Nebraska

NE_Appleseed_Icons_ChildrensHealth-128A newly released Appleseed policy brief, “Child Welfare and Sex Trafficking in Nebraska,” outlines the issue of the commercial sexual exploitation of children (“CSEC”) and the risk factors that make children in foster care more vulnerable to the coercion of traffickers.

Human trafficking is a growing worldwide crime that exists even in our Nebraska communities.

The goal of this guide is to educate child welfare attorneys on the legal and non-legal needs of victims of CSEC. It will also provide a framework of laws addressing sex trafficking and a discussion of children who are most at risk of being trafficked.

One study estimated that as many as 85 percent of trafficking victims had prior experience in the child welfare system. Traffickers have even been known to target victims straight from group homes. Because of these increased dangers faced by children who are in foster care or who have run away, attorneys can utilize tools in this guide to address the connection between foster care and sex trafficking.

We hope that with a better understanding of CSEC and the resources available in Nebraska, child welfare attorneys can begin to take steps to prevent the trafficking of minors and to defend the rights of those who have been trafficked.

Click here for a list of Nebraska resources on human trafficking

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RELEASE – ‘500 by the 15th’ surpasses health coverage goal

***For Immediate Release***

December 19, 2014


“500 By The 15th” campaign widely surpasses health insurance enrollment goal

Organizations assist nearly 900 Nebraskans in new or renewed coverage plans

EnrollNE_LogoLINCOLN — A statewide campaign to help at least 500 Nebraskans enroll in health insurance or renew previous plans in the first half of December was a resounding success, Enroll Nebraska announced today.

Enroll Nebraska, a statewide network of health care providers, community organizations, in-person assisters, and advocacy groups, revealed that participating organizations helped 893 Nebraskans either enroll or renew coverage plans through the Health Insurance Marketplace during the “500 By The 15th” campaign.

“This success is a result of so much hard work by Nebraska organizations to help our friends and neighbors understand their health insurance options and make sure people got the coverage they need,” said Eric Savaiano, Statewide Coordinator of Enroll Nebraska. “I want to thank all of the local Community Action Partnerships, local public health departments, and members of the Health Center Association of Nebraska for all of their effort to help Nebraskans get covered.”

During the “500 By The 15th” campaign, participating organizations held special enrollment events, extended their office hours, and collected commitment cards to remind people to keep their enrollment appointments.

These efforts resulted in 571 new enrollments and 322 renewed coverage plans.

Nebraskans still have until February 15, 2015, to sign up for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace, and local organizations across the state continue to serve as a free, helpful resource for people looking to compare health insurance options and see what tax credits they may qualify for.

“The ‘500 By The 15th’ campaign was a great success, but our work is far from done this period,” said Elaine Avila, Certified Application Counselor at Midtown Health Center in Norfolk. “We encourage everyone who still needs health coverage to contact a local assister and set up an appointment to see what health insurance plan may fit their needs and their budget.”

Nebraskans can find a free, local assister on this map. Or help is available over the phone by calling, toll-free 1-800-318-2596.

For media requests: Contact Nebraska Appleseed Communications Director Jeff Sheldon at (402) 438-8853 or

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Civil rights groups demand formal OSHA response on worker protections

For Immediate Release
December 17, 2014
Contact: Jeff Sheldon
Communications Director, Nebraska Appleseed
Office: (402) 438-8853
Mobile: (402) 840-7289
Kyleah Starling, Southern Poverty Law Center
Phone: (334) 956-8420

Civil rights groups demand formal OSHA response on worker protections

Letter requests written response to 2013 petition demanding safeguards from crippling injuries

LINCOLN — Today, a coalition of civil rights groups sent a letter to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) asking the federal agency for a formal written response to a petition the coalition filed in September 2013 to better protect meatpacking and poultry workers from intense work speeds that cause permanently disabling injuries.

More than a year has passed since the coalition filed a rulemaking petition that urged OSHA to safeguard meatpacking and poultry employees by instituting clear rules protecting them from dangerously high work speeds. OSHA has yet to respond. The lack of a clear and enforceable work speed standard will only continue to place meat and poultry workers at serious risk for permanently crippling repetitive-motion injuries.  OSHA should make clear whether it plans to draft rules to protect these workers.

The coalition’s letter emphasizes the critical need for OSHA to issue work speed standards to protect meat and poultry workers. Currently, only the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates line speed in meatpacking and poultry plants.  The USDA, however, is exclusively focused on food safety, ignoring the vital importance of worker well-being.

“Our coalition hopes that a work speed standard will help OSHA fulfill its mission by providing it with the tools the agency needs to address this serious and pressing safety issue,” said Nebraska Appleseed staff attorney Omaid Zabih. “Currently, OSHA has general health and safety rules for meatpacking and poultry plants, but does not have specific rules to regulate processing line speeds that currently operate at a grueling pace, regularly injuring workers.”

The group’s letter states there is a wide array of evidence from peer-reviewed medical and epidemiological studies, investigative reports, and community surveys that “demonstrates the relationship between excessive work speed and the alarming prevalence of permanently disabling injuries in meatpacking and poultry plants.”

Meat and poultry workers regularly make 20,000 to 80,000 motions per day on the line. This intense work speed frequently leads to debilitating repetitive-motion injuries to workers’ hands, wrists, arms, shoulders, neck, and back. Knife cuts and respiratory illnesses also are commonplace. These high rates of serious and disabling injuries recently led OSHA to take the important step of citing an Alabama poultry plant for numerous health and safety violations, including exposure to hazards that led to these types of musculoskeletal injuries.

“OSHA’s recent citations of an Alabama poultry plant for causing its workers to develop musculoskeletal disorders were a welcome development,” said Michelle Lapointe, senior staff attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center.  “We hope that OSHA continues to look out for worker health and safety in poultry and meatpacking plants.  However, a rule regulating work speed would make OSHA’s work in this area more effective and would ensure more consistent compliance around the country.”

The group’s letter can be viewed here.

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Meet Katie Pitts, Appleseed’s new Public Policy Director

Katie Pitts is Appleseed's new Director of Public Policy.

Katie Pitts is Appleseed’s new Director of Public Policy.

When the 2015 Nebraska Legislature starts in January, Appleseed will have a new, but familiar face at the State Capitol.

We are excited to introduce you to Katie Pitts, our new Director of Public Policy!

We are happy to welcome Katie back to Appleseed, where she previously served with us as a law clerk while attending Creighton University School of Law.

“I love the role that Appleseed plays in Nebraska and the important issues it tackles every day,” Katie said. “The clerkship I completed at Appleseed was one of the best experiences I had while in law school and I am excited to help move our work forward to expand justice and opportunity for all Nebraskans.”

During law school, Katie also worked as a law clerk with Justice For Our Neighbors – Nebraska, and has experience with and a passion for immigration law.  She will put this experience to work as she helps Appleseed’s Immigrants & Communities Program work for immigration reform and other positive policy changes.

Katie is a familiar face at the Capitol too. For the last two years, she has worked as a legislative aide in the Unicameral and will bring Appleseed a great deal of experience in developing good policy and building and maintaining relationships with our leaders.

Our work with Nebraska’s elected officials – at both the state and federal level – is a crucial part of our mission to expand justice and opportunity for all. Katie will spearhead these efforts and ensure the people Appleseed works hard every day to represent will have their voices heard!

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Shopping around could mean big savings on health insurance

Get Covered logo_featimgFor those who signed up for health insurance last enrollment period through Health Insurance Marketplace, plans will be automatically renewed for the upcoming year starting tomorrow.

While this makes it easier for individuals to stay covered, most could save money by reviewing their plans and considering switching to a different insurer.  According to an article in The New York Times, only about 720,000 individuals had returned to the Marketplace to review their plan and update their information out of an existing 6.7 million current plan holders.  Most people may be missing a chance to see if they could save even more on their insurance this year.

In Nebraska, where rates have increased more steeply than in other states, individuals may be able to save more than $100 a month by making a switch.

Our advice to you? Review your plan and shop around for a policy that is even more affordable and still meets your needs.  With a phone call or a few minutes online, you could be able to keep your doctor, maintain the same benefits, and reduce your monthly premium payments.

Visit or call 1-800-318-2596 to review your plan.  Or contact an agency from Nebraska’s assister network to get free, local help.

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President Obama recognizes welcoming efforts and creates White House Task Force

Image: Barack Obama

President Obama takes questions about his recent immigration action in Nashville, Tenn., on Dec. 9, 2014.

A growing number of communities here in Nebraska and across the nation are recognizing that our cities and towns thrive when diverse people from around the world feel valued and want to put down roots.

Tuesday in Nashville, President Obama recognized Welcoming America founder and Executive Director David Lubell and the community of Nashville as one such community at a town hall meeting.

Read more: David Lubell, “Why I’ll be in Nashville today”

“Any economist will tell you economies with younger work forces grow faster than those with an aging work force,” said President Obama as he described a more inclusive and prosperous future for those communities like Nashville that seize the opportunity to become more welcoming to all newcomers.

“This is what makes America exceptional,” he said, “that we welcome strivers and dreamers from all around the world.”

President Obama confirmed his commitment to immigrant and refugee integration efforts and to creating welcoming communities by creating the White House Task Force on New Americans to coordinate federal strategy to better integrate new Americans into communities and support state and local efforts.

The President stressed that connecting new immigrants with long-time residents creates a foundation of respect. “Civility comes when long time residents and newcomers know each other. Immigration has always elicited emotion,” the President said, noting people had similar concerns when Irish, German or Polish, Chinese or Japanese immigrants have come to the United States in the past.

Welcoming Tennessee and Nashville for All of Us are initiatives similar to those in 42 communities across the country, including Nebraska Is Home, where locally led efforts in our state help communities thrive by empowering and engaging New Americans, and helping long time community members get to know their immigrant neighbors and see them as an essential asset.

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Amanda’s Story: Life in the Coverage Gap

Amanda Gershon has shared her story at the State Capitol several times, urging lawmakers to close the coverage gap so all Nebraskans can get health insurance.

Amanda Gershon has shared her story at the State Capitol several times, urging lawmakers to close the coverage gap so all Nebraskans can get health insurance.

If you’ve been following the debate around closing the coverage gap that leaves at least 54,000 Nebraskans without health insurance, you may have heard Lincoln resident Amanda Gershon speak.

Amanda has been very brave to share her story with state senators and the public. She has an unknown autoimmune disease that leaves her unable to work as much as she would like so she does not have health insurance and has not yet been classified as disabled, which would allow her to receive Medicaid coverage.

Amanda is one of those Nebraskans living a frightening, unstable life every day in the coverage gap.

Here is what she told the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee on December 2nd.

My name is Amanda Gershon. Some of you may recognize me from last year. I have undiagnosed autoimmune issues. One in 20 Americans has an autoimmune. My own body is destroying itself. The damage autoimmune does isn’t reversible. There is no cure but there are medications that slow the progress and destruction. If my body continues without treatment it could affect my liver and kidneys to the point that I wouldn’t be able to take the medication. Sometimes leading to death.

I have no insurance. I make less than poverty. I don’t qualify for subsidies or Medicaid. The last year has been hard. I never expected to get this sick so quickly but here I am. I have applied for disability but I am stuck waiting for everything to go through. And as we know Medicaid isn’t instantly granted with disability. So I have to wait and hope I don’t get sick.

I’m losing my hair in clumps. I’ve lost 20 percent of my body weight in 3 months and I don’t know why and I have nowhere to go to find out. I hate the ER but I’ve been there 3 times this year. Twice because my heart wasn’t beating correctly.  And I have to file bankruptcy again. I filed bankruptcy when I was 22 on $60000 in medical bills. I’m getting to that point again. And I can’t keep doing this. I can’t.

For the few years of my life I had health insurance I had good credit, I had a home, I had vehicles, I had food on my table, I had no worries. I was out of debt and had recovered from a bankruptcy. But with no insurance and back to that starting point again.

The worst part is I am not the only person who lives like this. Many people across the country and in Nebraska live this way. In Lincoln. In Omaha. In the small towns.

But the true cost of failing to implement Medicaid expansion can’t be measured in dollars. The true cost is in the time lost, too sick to hang out with friends, too tired to celebrate holidays with family, too low to help a neighbor.

Not being able to participate in the things that truly make us Nebraskan is the real cost.

Amanda also has posted some videos with more details of her story and struggle to get health insurance on YouTube.

All Nebraskans need health insurance to get the medical care they need. Closing the coverage gap is a common-sense solution that not only will bring billions of our tax dollars back to our state, but will ensure our friends and neighbors like Amanda can get quality, life-saving health care.

Urge your state senator to take action and support closing the coverage gap during the 2015 Legislative session.
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The Costs of the Coverage Gap in Nebraska are Too High to Ignore

On December 2, Nebraska state senators again witnessed the high human and financial cost our state is paying by not closing the coverage gap that leaves at least 54,000 working people unable to get health insurance.

The Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee convened for a hearing on interim study LR 601 to study the effects of implementing or failing to implement the Affordable Care Act’s new Medicaid provision.

State Senator Al Davis of Hyannis was the sponsor of interim study LR 601.

State Senator Al Davis of Hyannis was the sponsor of interim study LR 601.

Bills that would have adopted this provision to close the coverage gap and bring more than $2 billion back to Nebraska’s economy have been filibustered during the last two legislative sessions.

State Senator Al Davis, who introduced the study, pointed out Nebraska has forgone more than $930,000 per day that could provide health coverage to low-income, working Nebraskans while supporting the state’s health care delivery system.

James Goddard, director of Appleseed’s Health Care and Economic Justice programs, testified to the committee that medical debt contributes to a significant percentage of Nebraska bankruptcies, which harm local economies.

Goddard delivered a presentation to the committee showing bankruptcy data in three Nebraska counties in which medical debt was a large factor.

Appleseed Health Care Director James Goddard

Appleseed Health Care Director James Goddard

“A lack of health insurance is a clear theme running throughout, and the majority of the debt is held by local businesses within Nebraska’s borders,” Goddard said.

If the financial detriment alone is not reason enough for the Legislature to make the right choice to close our coverage gap, Lincoln’s Amanda Gershon provided a powerful example of how being unable to get health coverage is a life-and-death matter for many people across our state.

Amanda is fighting autoimmune disease and is uninsured. Battling health problems has drained her savings and medical debt forced her into bankruptcy at age 22. Now 32, Amanda may need to file bankruptcy again as she continues to fight for her life.

Lincoln resident Amanda Gerson told the committee she is unable to afford the health coverage she needs to treat autoimmune disease.

Lincoln resident Amanda Gerson told the committee she is unable to afford the health coverage she needs to treat autoimmune disease.

“I can’t keep doing this. I can’t,” Amanda passionately told the committee. “In the few years of my life that I had insurance, I had excellent credit. I had a home, I had vehicles, I had food on my table, I had no worries. … But left with no insurance, I’m back to that starting point again.”

Ensuring all Nebraskans can get quality, affordable health care remains both a moral and financial imperative.

Our health care system must make sense for everyone. The Legislature has a chance this session to stop the needless waste of our tax dollars and improve the health of thousands of our friends and neighbors by closing the coverage gap.

Other media coverage of LR 601

Associated Press: Groups: Lack of coverage a factor in bankruptcies

10/11 News: Senators Hear Testimony on Medicaid Expansion

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