Amid all the challenges our community has faced over the past few months and weeks, we still have another challenge that we must continue to give adequate focus. April is Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month. According to Children Advocacy Centers of Arkansas, times of isolation, such as this global pandemic, are the height of occurrence for child abuse because the signs go unnoticed. Typical authority figures, such as pastors and teachers, do not have as much current access to children suffering abuse. As a result, hotline reporting has declined as much as 50 percent.

This past week Arkansas’ First Lady Susan Hutchinson in coordination with DHS’ Director of the Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) Mischa Martin made a special plea for our communities to be on the lookout and report suspected abuse during this unique time. Our children are depending on us, and we must meet the challenge. The abuse hotline has only received half the calls, approximately 3,148, as typical for this time of year since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Please remember, that even during this health emergency, DCFS continues to serve foster families and families in need. Children’s Advocacy Centers of Arkansas have 17 locations across the state, and they will remain open and continue to serve children via telemedicine as well as in person. If you suspect a child is suffering abuse, please call 1-800-SAVE-A-CHILD 24 hours a day.

In other community news, testing for COVID-19 (coronavirus) continues in our state. There are almost 3,000 confirmed cases with 104 hospitalizations, 46 deaths, and 25 patients currently using ventilators. Again, I would like to extend my deepest condolences to those who have lost loved ones to this awful disease. As our nation’s healthcare professionals work to contain the virus, more adequate testing is needed. To address the need, Governor Hutchinson exercised an executive order creating a working group to focus on testing capacity. We also saw an increase in testing with mobile units around the state this week. Thank you to the many local and statewide organizations who partnered to make that happen in various Arkansas communities.

So many aspects of our lives have been affected by this pandemic. Although our current news happens moment by moment, I will continue to do my best to keep the community informed. Over 170,000 Arkansans have filed for unemployment, and beginning this Sunday, the hotline will operate 7 days a week at 1-844-908-2178. The Governor has also announced that he will be releasing another $1 million from the Quick Action Closing fund for bridge loans to Arkansas businesses. The state has processed almost 250 bridge loans to date.

Finally, I like to share informative items that constituents might find useful. If you have questions about any legislation or the legislative process, feel free to contact me at [email protected] or by phone at 501-682-6211.