Healthy Community Fund grants slated for 71 agencies |

Healthy Community Fund grants slated for 71 agencies

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – With this month’s voter reauthorization of Pitkin County’s Healthy Community Fund tax for another five years starting in 2013, the advisory committee that weighs grant requests is recommending spending just about everything remaining in the fund’s coffers in 2012.

County commissioners on Tuesday are scheduled to review recommended grants totaling $1.6 million, divided among 71 agencies. The total includes spending down virtually all of the program’s anticipated remaining funds at the end of this year – $115,396. That will leave the program with a projected balance of about $3,000 at the end of next year.

Since voters approved not only renewal of the property tax that supports the program, but also an increase in it, the grant fund will have $1.9 million annually at its disposal starting in 2013 – a hike of more than $400,000 per year, compared to what the existing tax generates.

“We anticipate an influx of more money and, presumably, more applicants,” said Mitzi Ledingham, the county’s deputy director of health and human services.

With the expiration of the existing tax at the close of 2012 and the start of a new one in 2013, the 2013 grant cycle will bring a review of the program’s priorities, she added.

Currently, a number of the agencies that receive funding are in the midst of two- or three-year partnerships with the Healthy Community Fund. All of those contracts expire at the end of next year, and grant applicants must start fresh.

“Everybody starts over. It’s going to be a level playing field,” Ledingham said. “It’s an opportunity, since it’s a new page, to just look at how we evaluate programs, kind of with a fresh eye.”

Ledingham said she’s not anticipating big changes in how the program allocates funding, but welcomes the chance to reaffirm how the Healthy Community Fund operates.

As for 2012, requests for funding came from 77 agencies, a combination of health and human service providers and community nonprofits. The requests totaled $1.8 million.

The recommended allocations include $1.04 million for health and human service organizations, $365,223 for senior services and $227,800 to assist area nonprofits.

Among the recommended grant recipients are six new agencies in health and human services and four nonprofits. Six other new requests from nonprofits were denied because their missions don’t meet the fund’s guidelines.

Among the funding recommendations is again allocating $40,000 to the county’s Emergency Assistance Fund, created in 2009 to help residents with one-time, emergency expenses. The fund was started with $20,000, but was doubled a year later, in 2010, in response to high demand. It has remained at $40,000 annually since then.

Ledingham anticipates the $40,000 allocated for 2011 will be tapped out by year’s end. “It’s still a high demand. It’s not escalating greatly, it’s not declining greatly,” she said.

Organizations chosen to receive funding for the first time include several devoted to emergency services, whether it’s food or other assistance, reflecting the ongoing demand for help among clients struggling with the recession. They include Tom’s Door, Lift-Up and the Salvation Army.

Also recommended for funding for the first time is the Aspen Hope Center, which provides suicide prevention and intervention services, and Valley Life for All, which assists the disabled.

Other first-time recipients include the Woody Creek Community Center, which is developing a wellness program that includes free monthly clinics, Mountain Rescue Aspen and Mpower. The latter targets the prevention of alcohol, tobacco and drug use among teens. The Colorado Western Slope College Fair and Colorado Fourteeners Initiative are also slated to receive grants for the first time, according to the advisory committee’s recommendations.