ACLU of Mississippi announces new Executive Director, Jarvis Dortch

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JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi announced Jarvis Dortch, former member of the Mississippi State House of Representatives, will join the affiliate as its new executive director beginning July 13, 2020.

“As a member of the Mississippi legislature, I saw firsthand that our democracy and voting rights are under assault,” said Dortch. “I considered it a great privilege to serve in the legislature and represent all Mississippians, especially our underserved. However, there are other avenues to not only protect our democracy but to further extend voting rights and government openness. I cannot think of a better opportunity than working to promote ACLU’s goals in Mississippi.”

An alumnus of Jackson State University and Mississippi College School of Law, Dortch has worked in private legal practice as well as in policy, advocacy, and social justice work across the state of Mississippi.

“Jarvis brings an impressive skill set to the ACLU of MS as a coalition builder, attorney, former legislator, and policy advocate. He has become a leading voice in the state speaking truth to power on issues that impact vulnerable communities,” said Cassandra Welchlin, President of the Board of Directors.

After casting his final vote in the Mississippi Legislature, Dortch released the following statement:

It has been my pleasure to serve the people of Mississippi. I look forward to the next chapter in my career and continuing to work on behalf our state’s underserved.

On my final vote in the Mississippi House of Representatives: 

African-Americans have often warned that “when America gets a cold, black folks get pneumonia.” COVID-19 has pretty much changed a popular expression into a literal statement.

The past few months have proven that the status quo pushes disproportionate suffering and death on African-Americans. While there is much more that can and should be done, I’m proud that the Mississippi legislature voted to provide $6 million to Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive and a coalition of community health centers to fund a health disparity intervention program. 

The Mississippi Access Group Network (MAGnet) is a chartered corporation of five community health center with a mission to strengthen collaboration and coordination for improved health access, performance, outcomes and cost efficiencies. MAGnet’s vision is to improve the health status for all Mississippians through integrated health. 

This program will place dozens of health care professionals throughout Mississippi to conduct community-based health interventions, case and disease management, and provide preventive screenings. 

MAGnet will work to directly reduce the prevalence of chronic health conditions within the African-American community. These conditions result in black Mississippians suffering from higher death rates due to COVID.  

But let’s remember that black Mississippians are more likely to come in contact with COVID because we disproportionately work in front-facing, service jobs. Many of these jobs have been deemed essential. Despite their important status, those jobs likely do not come with health insurance.  

If Mississippi really wants to change, the Mississippi legislature must expand Medicaid. It is obscene that very people most of us have relied upon during this pandemic cannot even afford to see a doctor. 

I am proud that this is one of my final votes in the Mississippi legislature, but I am beyond disappointed that our legislature refuses to take seriously our state’s health challenges. Beyond simple politics, there is no damn reason for Mississippi to not expand Medicaid. It is a fiscal win. It is an economic win. It is a health win. And most importantly, it is just the right thing to do.

Jarvis Dortch

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