A healthcare helping hand

SHELTYN ROSE | Evergreen reporter

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The Latah County Human Rights Task Force has defended Idaho residents against the looming presence of white supremacist Neo-Nazis in the state, and now fights for the community’s right to healthcare.

For one Saturday every summer, the task force sets up a booth at the Moscow Farmers Market to help inform the public on their rights as well as resources available in their community. The booth this year will focus on healthcare and will be open Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Main Street near the fountain in downtown Moscow.

Board member Mary Jo Hamilton said access to good medical care is a human right determined by the United Nations in the ‘70s and amended into the Civil Rights Act.

“I think human rights is an issue that everyone should be concerned with,” she said.

The task force prides itself on its ability to expose Idaho, a primarily white community, to other cultures and backgrounds of its population, said board chair Joann Muneta.

The task force chose to focus on healthcare this year, but the theme changes annually. In 2013, the topic was “Women and Work” and the year before centered on immigration, specifically in relation to the Moscow area.

“The booth is meant to be informational, but also to engage the public,” Muneta said.

The group is responsible for several events in the community, including partnering with the WSU theater students to bring programs about the Japanese internment camps as well as some Native American history, she said.

“Our main goal is to prevent bigotry and to celebrate diversity, and to make the community a welcoming environment,” she said.

Walter and Eleanor Hesford have been task force members since the early ‘90s when there was a strong effort to not allow any information regarding homosexuals to be present in public schools.

“It was an outrageous infringement on human rights,” Walter said, “There is a real lack of willingness to acknowledge equality of the LGBT community.” 

The task force began 20 years ago to combat supremacist Richard Butler and the Aryan nation presence in northern Idaho, which included various hate groups and Neo-Nazis.

Two decades later, Idaho has chosen not to expand the Medicaid healthcare program to its citizens in 2014, and the task force said they are trying to assist those who can’t afford to go to the doctor.

Visitors at the market can have their blood pressure checked for free, and there is an abundance of activities for children.

Kids have the opportunity to decorate their own plate with stickers of good food choices and take home a fresh apple or plum. They can also participate in a story hour at 9 a.m. on the topic of doctors and what they do to help people.