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The America Forward team picks some impactful solutions from 2023

This year, if you flipped on television news you'd hear a lot about what's going wrong with the country. But there's people working on solutions.
The America Forward team picks some impactful solutions from 2023
Posted at 1:46 PM, Dec 26, 2023

A few dozen stories across a few months give a brief window into America's wider arc. But what Scripps News found in that time speaks volumes for how solutions emerge in moving the country forward.

We've traveled across time zones, spotlighting the efforts to address the complex challenges facing our communities. We've found people often don't agree on what the best solution is. 

We saw it in Philadelphia, where the overdose crisis has overtaken a city neighborhood. Advocates there believe in harm reduction: giving those who use safe ways to do it. But the city council voted 13-1 against safe injections. 

Meanwhile, with child care, the last few months saw the expiring of pandemic relief funds from the federal government. There's little agreement on what the government should do next.

But child care offers a window into what can happen when leaders do agree. We went to New Mexico, whose leaders have infused millions of dollars in recent years to make child care more accessible and affordable.

We saw similar efforts on alternate issues. In Birmingham, a city program has put millions of dollars of its own into building Black businesses. Bergen County, New Jersey, has seen numerous agencies coordinate to achieve and maintain functional zero homelessness. And back in Philly, its eviction diversion program has kept thousands of people in homes — at a time when other cities have struggled.

SEE MORE: Groups in Atlanta take aim at income inequality

We've found that the seeds of change can start from beyond government. A study out of Vancouver found that one-time cash sums help folks get out and stay out of homelessness. Now cities in America are trying it out. 

A small group of pastors spent nine months on a fellowship to help make their congregations more LGBTQ-inclusive. They walked into potential controversy and mostly found community.

And in El Paso, Texas, a professor, and his team used research to build a mental health program specifically for Hispanic Americans. Now they're working to branch it out.

Perhaps what's stood out the most is those rare cases when a seemingly straightforward effort has made massive change. We spent time in Atlanta with a program that trains young Black men to teach literacy in classrooms — rooms where Black men aren't nearly represented enough. We found Dayshon Smith. He's one of the teachers who told us the program turned him around.

And back where we started, amidst the overwhelming overdose crisis in Philadelphia, a small group called Philly HEALs reaches out to those who've just lost a loved one and offers support. Jenn Doyle got that call after losing their daughter, Olivia. They told us the call wound up saving her life. 

In our few months, we haven't found the magical solution that fully eliminates any one issue. Those don't exist, because the issues are never that simple. But we continue to uplift the impact and the efforts that help push America forward.

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