Executive Office of Health and Human Services Announces Participatory Budgeting Vote through Health Equity Zones

Published on Wednesday, June 07, 2023


Ashley O'Shea, EOHHS


Joseph Wendelken, RIDOH


Residents in Pawtucket, Central Falls and Central Providence (02908-02909) will decide how to invest $1.38 million dollars to improve community health.

CRANSTON, RI (JUNE 7, 2023) – Community-based collaboratives are partnering with Rhode Island residents to improve community health through the Health Equity Zone (HEZ) initiative. One way HEZs are improving community health is using Participatory Budgeting (PB). PB is a democratic process that gives people real power over real money by identifying community needs and supporting residents as they generate and vote on solutions. Eligible residents can vote and attend voting parties in their HEZ community on June 10, 2023.  

Pawtucket and Central Falls Vote Party will be at Tides Family Services, 242 Dexter Street, from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m., and a Central Providence Voting Block Party will be held on Dike Street in Providence from 2 p.m. - 5 p.m. Residents can also vote virtually and at additional in-person voting events listed on decideri.org.   

“As a resident of Central Falls, a parent, and community advocate, The Together We Can Participatory Budgeting (PB) process has allowed us to elevate the voices of the average resident in Central Falls and Pawtucket. PB is giving our residents the opportunity to be active participants in their community and to have agency in the decision-making process when it comes to spending real money. We have 11 amazing projects that came from community members, and residents will decide what projects they want to see come to life to make our cities healthier.” Carlene Fonseca, Central Falls resident and PB facilitator

Residents designed 31 projects such as “Suds for Hope: Mobile Laundry Truck” to provide unhoused and low-income residents an accessible, free-of-charge opportunity to clean their clothes and “Pool Access, Lessons and Lifeguards” to extend swimming pool hours, offer free swimming lessons for all ages, and lifeguard training for youth. Learn about all projects on decideri.org.  

From May 30 – June 13, 2023, Pawtucket and Central Falls residents aged 14 years and older can vote on how to spend $385,000. From June 6 – June 20, 2023, residents and anyone attending school in Central Providence (02908 and 02909 ZIP codes) aged 13 years and older will vote on how to spend $1 million. 

“​A new participatory budgeting effort, which is engaging two of our HEZs to determine priorities for more than $1.38 million in federal funds for work to improve health outcomes, is yet another example of how we can help ensure residents exercise voice and agency in how government dollars are spent, said Assistant Secretary Ana Novais, Executive Office of Health and Human Services. ”When we truly listen to that voice, we can nurture choice, building systems that afford people and communities the opportunity to do better, the choice to be healthier. And if we listen, if we respond to the voices and fix broken systems, then we can achieve equity. These are the kinds of actions that will help ensure that every person has a chance to live their highest potential—regardless of race, class, sex, gender, disability status, or ZIP code.”

“Participatory Budgeting first launched in Central Falls in 2019 and has gained significant traction from its first year, when students decided on how to spend $10,000, to today, when residents will decide how to spend over $1 million,” said Medicaid Director Kristin Sousa. “Funded by Medicaid, this pivotal work engages community members and transforms how we invest in health in Rhode Island.”

Additionally, the PB process has a lasting impact on communities, as people participating in a PB process are 7% more likely to vote in traditional elections.