Fund key to service puzzle
October 17, 2006
Officials from local health agencies and non-profits say the passage of referendum 1A – to renew and increase the Healthy Community Fund – is vital to their survival.The Healthy Community Fund currently supports 42 agencies with $913,000. It is up for renewal, with a slight tax increase, on Nov. 7. If Referendum 1A passes, the fund’s annual collection would be raised to $1,250,000 that would go to support 60 agencies. While essential programs like senior care and mental health services would carry on at minimum levels with support from the county’s general fund if the referendum fails, non-profit services that aren’t deemed “essential” by the state would face severe cutbacks.The Family Visitor Program is a non-profit providing prenatal care as well as training and in-home support and education for new parents. The agency has six in-home care providers who visit some 350 families annually between Aspen and Parachute.If the referendum fails the agency would lose two members of their outreach staff, said Cindy Blachly, assistant director of the program.”We are the only agency in this area that does this sort of service,” Blachly said. If the referendum fails, the Family Visitor Program would have to reduce services, which would mean discharging young families early instead of following through for the first year of a newborn’s life, she said.”It’s the length of time we spend with a family that makes a difference,” she said.Blachly said the money from the Healthy Community fund is crucial to the program being able to continue the level of service. The fund makes up only about 20 percent of the program’s public funding, but the agency applies for 40 grants each year, and Blachly said that a grant from the fund serves as a seal of approval to private funders.”It’s a really essential part of our funding puzzle,” Blachly said.Funds raised through the Healthy Community Fund’s designated property tax cover everything from senior- and youth-support services to programs for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. The money also helps organizations that provide care for the terminally ill and their families, mental health counseling, drug and alcohol counseling, support for people with developmental difficulties, prenatal care, family planning and immunization.If the tax renewal and increase passes, residential taxpayers would pay $5.27 per $100,000 of residential property value – $1.37 per $100,000 more than they are currently required to pay. The cost for a commercial property would be $19.20 per $100,000.Organizations that provide health and human services receive 62 percent of the money raised by the tax; 22 percent goes toward senior services; and 16 percent to community non-profits that provide other services.”I don’t anticipate losing this ballot,” said Brad Osborn, director of The Right Door. But if the referendum fails the drug and alcohol referral service will lose 17 percent of his funding.Clients in crisis come to The Right Door to get the support they need: whether a ride to a detox, treatment center or mental health facility or connection with local 12-step programs. “We’ve had such great support from everyone in the community,” Osborn said. “I can’t even imagine taking a step that far back.” He said that police officials from both city and county as well as hospital staff from Aspen Valley Hospital rely on the service. If the referendum fails and the funding runs dry, The Right Door would have to cut back on staff and would not be able to provide all the services they do now, Osborn said.The Aspen Times has received numerous letters in support of the Referendum 1A. There has been no vocal opposition to the referendum.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.