Planning and Development Committee
March 15, 2023
Presented By: Kathleen Callahan, MSW

Dear Honorable Chairpersons Rahman and Kavros DeGraw, Ranking Members Fazio and Zullo, Vice Chairs Needleman and Chafee, and all other distinguished Members of the Planning and Development Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly:

My name is Kathleen Callahan, a resident of Stratford, and a co-chair of the National Association of Social Workers Connecticut Chapter’s Education and Legislative Action Network (NASW/CT ELAN). I am testifying on behalf of the chapter which represents over 2,300 members. We call upon the Planning and Development Committee to advance local and state collaboration for smart, equitable, forward-thinking land use planning and support HB-6890: AN ACT CONCERNING QUALIFYING TRANSIT-ORIENTED COMMUNITIES.

The legislative agenda of NASW/CT always begins by emphasizing advancing racial, economic, environmental, and social justice by a) supporting legislation that specifically promotes elimination of inequities and disparities relating to race, class, gender, ethnicity, and disability; and b) promoting culturally responsive practices in all aspects of community life, including employment, affordable housing, and transportation.

The reality is, the Work Live Ride proposal and the impact of equitable transit-oriented communities is woven throughout our legislative priorities.

There are many experts on zoning weighing in so I will limit this to our lane: “promote, restore, maintain, and enhance the well-being of individuals, families, social groups, organizations, and communities.”[1]

Connecticut is the land of steady habits. Historically, exclusionary zoning has caused our state to remain one of the most racially and economically segregated in the country, with devastating consequences.[2] With a renewed focus on workforce development and the need for more equitable, affordable – at all income levels – and environmentally-sustainable land use policies in Connecticut, we must promote zoning that benefits all in our communities for the future health and growth of our state.

Social workers are fundamentally rooted in the belief that an individual must be seen within the context and complexity of their human experience and their shared environment. The connection between where a person lives and their health and wellbeing include the quality of housing and access to transportation.

We know that housing is a crucial social determinant of health with more affordable housing resulting in improved community health and better economic outcomes. Transportation is also a social determinant of health, and the one which impacts almost every other one by either providing or impeding consistent and reliable access to various food options, health care and pharmacies, employment and education, and social connections.

In 2019, Kaiser Permanente[3] surveyed people across the country about their social needs, categorized by housing, transportation, food security, and relationships. A key takeaway was the holistic view of health – it is not the doctor visit only. While 92% of respondents believe access to doctors is important to overall health, both stable housing and reliable transportation, at 89% and 80% respectively, also ranked very important. Of additional significance is that these survey responses transcend demographics of age, income, race, or gender.

In an article about Covid and health disparities last March, leaders of community health center providers and advocates said the biggest part of health is social and behavioral, based on “where you live, where you breathe” and as the health systems learned to apply a public health and equity lens, removing “the economic and structural barriers to care, then you can focus on the work of where people live, work, [and] play.”[4]

All our neighbors, with diverse income and housing and transportation needs, will benefit from equitable transit-oriented communities. We will all benefit.

NASW/CT asks the committee to vote favorably on HB-6890.

With respect and gratitude for your service and consideration,

Kathleen Callahan
Stratford, CT

[1] National Association of Social Workers. (2021). National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics. Retrieved from https://www.socialworkers.org/About/Ethics/Code-of-Ethics/Code-of-Ethics-English.

[2] Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities. (2021). Connecticut Zoning and Discrimination 2021. Retrieved from https://portal.ct.gov/-/media/CHRO/Publications/CHROs-Zoning-and-Discrimination-2021-Report.pdf.

[3] Kaiser Permanente. (2019, June). Social Needs in America Survey Key Findings. Retrieved from https://about.kaiserpermanente.org/content/dam/internet/kp/comms/import/uploads/2019/06/KP-Social-Needs-Survey-Key-Findings.pdf.

[4] Fenster, J. N. (2022, March). Experts: COVID was ‘an awakening’ to health disparities in CT. What has been done to fix issues? Retrieved from https://www.ctinsider.com/news/article/Experts-COVID-was-an-awakening-to-health-16996835.php.

Speak Your Mind