It is staggering to know that in Mississippi there are between 500,000 and 800,000 caregivers. These are individuals that are often overlooked for their sacrifice and quiet life-saving service. They care for loved ones with no promise of compensation, but based on the goodness of their hearts and a commitment to doing unto others as they would have done unto themselves. In Mississippi alone, each year they contribute over $5 Billion dollars of in-kind care that would have to be provided by institutions, facilities, or other professionals if the caregivers were not in place!
The Mississippi Caregivers Task Force studied the issue of caregiving in Mississippi and completed a report and blueprint for the governor and legislature in late 2014. In 2015, efforts of the Task Force were successful as the Caregiver Act was passed in Mississippi. Another important milestone in 2015 was the creation of the Mississippi Family Caregiver Coalition, a grassroots group whose aim is to engage providers and caregivers in advocacy efforts and pooling of caregiver resources. In 2016, members of the Task Force and Mississippi Family Caregiver Coalition came together to support the creation of the bipartisan Caregiver Resolution, as promoted by the Family Caregiver Platform Project (FCPP). It passed the Mississippi State Legislature unanimously in 2016.
We clearly have a great deal of work to do. We know that each state has different challenges and assets. From a policy standpoint, history demonstrates that three things must converge to make a change: a well-defined problem, an evidence-based solution, and political will of policymakers. When this happens, a policy window opens for a short time. This means that now is the time to frame this issue as a National Crisis in the making and study solutions that will show evidence of substantial impact for supporting caregivers.
I am extremely hopeful for better supports for Mississippi’s and U.S. Caregivers in the coming years.
— Spencer Blalock, LCSW, BCD, DHA, has served on The Mississippi Board of Examiners for Social Workers and Marriage and Family Therapists since 2011. In 2014, Governor Bryant appointed Mr. Blalock as Chair of the Mississippi Caregivers Task Force.
Portrait of Spencer Blalock, LCSW, BCD, DHA
Co-Chair of the Mississippi Family Caregiver Coalition
Photo Credit: University of Mississippi Medical Center (used with permission)