Professional News

UK’s Higgins-Hord to Assist Lexington With Racial Justice Commission Recommendations

headshot photo of Lisa Higgins-Hord
UK Assistant Vice President for Community Engagement Lisa Higgins-Hord. Mark Cornelison | UK Photo.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 2, 2021) — Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton announced last week that University of Kentucky Assistant Vice President for Community Engagement Lisa Higgins-Hord will work to implement the Mayor’s Racial Justice and Equality Commission recommendations and other equity issues.

“We’ve made progress on implementing these recommendations, but I want to move faster by placing prominence on this work, so we are giving this effort a huge boost,” Gorton said. “Lisa is going to help us take action on these reforms.”

Higgins-Hord will oversee a City Hall team that has been working to implement the commission’s recommendations and other equity issues, while continuing her work at UK.

“Representation matters ... Owning the identity of our community matters,” Higgins-Hord said. “I commend the wisdom of the leadership and the dedication of the task force members who worked diligently in providing us with this framework. We are in an evolutionary time marked with a common purpose to move this set of dynamic and fluid recommendations forward. These recommendations will serve as the basis for our work and must not be done in isolation. They must be connected into synergistic spaces that seek change within the Black community. Within these spaces, sustainable and scalable transformative community partnerships can be formed to build a more whole and thriving community for all. I am a firm believer that serving our community is to secure our future.”

Gorton thanked UK and President Eli Capilouto for this support.

“UK is clearly demonstrating its support for this work. UK values collaboration and recognizes a mutually beneficial opportunity, especially efforts pertaining to transformative community work,” Gorton said. “This is a critical moment to focus on an opportunity we cannot afford to waste. Lisa knows UK, she knows city government, she has the confidence of the Council, and she knows the community … she can pull together resources from all corners of our city.”  

Higgins-Hord works with the Lexington community as part of her position at UK, and she served on the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council last year representing the Sixth District.

The 70-member Mayor’s Racial Justice and Equality Commission, chaired by Roszalyn Akins and Gerald L. Smith, got to work in July. By October, the hard-working group had produced a 68-page report with 54 recommendations.

While Gorton would like to move faster to make changes, the city has not been standing still. Several commission recommendations have already been put in action, including:

  • Provide rental assistance to keep people in their homes and assist with utility costs.
  • Use the Mayor’s Mobile Testing Program to ensure access to coronavirus testing in areas disproportionately affected by the virus … testing in Lexington is a national model … and soon we will apply what we have learned to vaccine distribution.
  • Rename Cheapside Park. It’s now Henry Tandy Centennial Park, and work continues on reimagining the park.
  • Expand One Lexington’s Safety NET violence intervention program by adding additional street outreach workers, who offer resources, such as social workers, to help families and provide youth with the resources they need to be safe and successful.
    • Thanks to a partnership with UK HealthCare, this violence intervention can now begin at the hospital. Members of the trauma team describe the Safety Net program to the patient and offer to contact a street outreach worker.
  • The city is funding a Disparity Study to determine whether minority companies are getting their fair share of government contracts.
  • The city is purchasing body-worn cameras for all police officers.
  • The mayor is proposing a new government department focusing on housing, which will be part of this year’s budget proposal.
  • The city has launched a program to provide access to mental health professionals through a 24-hour crisis outreach team. New Vista, Fayette County's Community Health Center, was awarded a $2 million grant to create a Crisis Outreach Team. This team of mental health practitioners is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to respond to mental health crises. First responders have been working with this team.