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Southwest Merced and the east Merced County unincorporated communities of Planada, Le Grand, and Beachwood-Franklin combine to make up the BHC area in Merced. With a diverse population exceeding 55,000, these neighborhoods share challenges including high levels of poverty, unemployment, lack of access to health care, and the highest level of disconnected youth in the state.

In spite of its challenges, Merced Building Healthy Communities (MBHC) and its partners are changing the narrative and advocating for improvements on multiple levels. From increasing health access and addressing exclusionary school discipline policies with restorative alternatives, to empowering our youth so their voices are heard, MBHC is bringing together diverse youth and residents, as well as community groups and local agencies to create a safe and healthy community filled with opportunities for all.


  • The BHC Merced site is home to 55,000 people and growing. 61 percent are Hispanic with 17 percent linguistically isolated.
  • The median household income in Merced is $30,000. 51 percent of residents are below the poverty line, in comparison to 22.9 percent statewide. 43 percent of youth are living in poverty.
  • Merced has the highest level of disconnected youth (13.5 percent) statewide.
  • In 2014, the City of Merced reestablished its Youth Council so that youth have direct voice into City decisions.
  • In 2014, Merced voters approved Measure T, which will replace the at-large voting process for city council members with geographic districts that will assure all parts of the City are represented.

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  • Merced County has been awarded a multimillion-dollar grant to make major improvements to one local park. The transformation of Houlihan Park is already getting underway. Crews spent hours taking down trees to make room for a new ADA compliant restroom facility.

  • After what is described as “eight long years of hard work,” the small community of Planada has secured a sizable grant of $2.4 million in state funds to revitalize its Houlihan Park. Meanwhile on the other side of Merced County, Pioneer Park in Gustine will receive $1.3 million.

  • Advocates gathered in Merced, and similar demonstrations were held around the state, according to advocates, to get elected officials to support Senate Bill 623, which aims to provide a stable source of funding to implement California’s Human Rights to Water, Assembly Bill 685 from 2012.


Restorative Justice & Improved School Climate: Merced BHC’s Schools Action Team and its partners are working together with four school districts in Merced County to replace zero tolerance policies with restorative approaches. Improving school climate and student wellness efforts are also among their top priorities.

Youth Opportunities and Youth Voice: Investing in Merced’s future means investing in their youth. In response to years of disinvestment, the Neighborhoods Action Team is on the front lines with local youth advocating for youth inclusion in decisions that impact them. Advocacy has led to the establishment of a Merced City Youth Council and heightened awareness of the importance of long-term investments in youth which are being pursued.

Expanding Health Access To all Merced: Merced BHC recognizes that everyone in Merced County and beyond should have equitable access to affordable health coverage. That is why Merced BHC’s Prevention Action Team and its partners have coordinated outreach efforts to dramatically increase health coverage enrollments, as well as advocate for a statewide #Health4All solution. Much work remains but our BHC collaborative is moving with momentum and promise.


Youth Media reporters Stephanie Gurtel and Victor Seguin sat down with Grammy-award winning artist Common during his stop in Merced, Calif. on his Hope and Redemption Tour.


During the Hope and Redemption Tour, Common performed at reconciliation and rehabilitation facilities, to encourage positive transformation and influence the #SchoolsNotPrisons pipeline.