Interfaith group, community leaders commit to focusing on addiction treatment

April 30, 2015. The Daily Progress.

Inside the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail and the Blue Ridge Juvenile Detention Center, 3,150 people — or 70 percent of the inmate population — suffer from an addiction to drugs or alcohol, according to statistics from Interfaith Movement Promoting Action by Congregating Together, or IMPACT.

Women are particularly vulnerable because there are no residential treatment programs in Charlottesville or Albemarle County for them, said IMPACT Executive Secretary Sheila Herlihy.

During the latter half of 2014, approximately 70 people had to leave the community to receive substance abuse treatment at a cost of $800 to $3,000 per person, Herlihy said. About 30 women couldn’t receive treatment because centers outside the region were unable to accommodate them, she said.

“We know there are people within our community who need these services and don’t have access to them,” Herlihy said. “We’ve heard their stories. The services we have are good, but residential treatment is very necessary for people who simply can’t deal with their problems at home.”

Those statistics were among reasons why members of 27 local Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Unitarian Universalist congregations gathered at the ninth Nehemiah Action Assembly chose to make a community-wide call to support those facing drug and alcohol addiction. Marketed as the largest annual regional public meeting, leaders and members of the regional faith community also confirmed commitments from Albemarle County and Charlottesville officials.

Working in conjunction with Region Ten, city and county officials would be able to address a serious problem plaguing the community, IMPACT leaders said at the Thursday night event in John Paul Jones Arena.

“It is an issue that several members have brought to our attention,” Jan Godfrey, IMPACT executive board vice president, said.

“We hold ourselves accountable as people of faith to help our brothers and sisters that are facing injustices in regards to substance abuse treatment,” Godfrey continued.

Col. Steven Sellers, chief of Albemarle County police, said after the event that drug and alcohol abuse often plays a role in the lives of those who routinely become engaged with the criminal justice system.

“Any kind of prevention activities will certainly impact crime in the community in a positive way,” Sellers said. “It’s been proven to be effective.”

Deputy Albemarle County Executive Doug Walker, Charlottesville Assistant City Manager Mike Murphy and Region Ten Executive Director Robert Johnson all agreed to four commitments outlined by IMPACT officials:

» organizing a three-year plan to increase substance abuse treatment for men and women;

» holding a joint meeting with city, county and Region Ten officials within 30 days to develop the plan;

» sending an outline of that plan to IMPACT’s executive board by Sept. 1; and

» giving a presentation of the report at IMPACT’s scheduled annual assembly on Oct. 26.

Additionally, Region Ten could build a $2 million residential treatment center as part of the plan, Johnson said, but financial support to build it and pay for increased staffing and maintenance could cost about $200,000 annually. The facility would have rooms for eight women, eight men and two children.

“We truly believe this can be done,” Johnson said. “I believe it, and our staff believes it. That’s our plan that we hope to stick to it. We are hoping to make an impact as well.”

While Walker and Murphy agreed to the commitments, no specific amount of funding was promised due to the meeting’s location in the fiscal year.

Imam Tyler “Ali” Roach, IMPACT co-president and a worship leader with the Islamic Society of Central Virginia, said he was confident the new commitments city, county and community leaders made Thursday would also be fulfilled, “God willing.”

“I’m very grateful and happy,” he said. “With prayer and hard work from our community leaders, I expect good results.”

IMPACT chooses drugs, crime as next focus area

October 27, 2014. The Daily Progress.

For years, Loretta Martin said, her sister has battled drug and alcohol abuse without being able to find adequate rehabilitation programs close to her family. She has been to programs in Richmond and Roanoke, but is “incapable of finding help on her own,” Martin said. She has been turned away from a psychiatric ward and can’t find housing.

“If there was some program for women with alcohol and drug problems in the local areas, families could stay connected and then the healing could begin,” Martin said. “I pray that she is okay and that God will continue to watch after her. Am I my sister’s keeper? Yes, I am. And I and my family will fight to find the care that she needs.

Martin’s story led to the Interfaith Movement Promoting Action by Congregating Together, IMPACT, choosing drugs and crime as its next project.

The nonprofit group, comprised of 27 Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Unitarian Universalist congregations across Charlottesville and Albemarle County, met Monday evening to direct its focus on drugs and crime, housing or education.

Along with Martin, three other members told their stories and leaders encouraged voters to think about their own experiences to make a decision.

Mallika Rodriguez, a single mother, spoke about her struggle to find affordable, convenient and high-quality childcare. She said she had a hard time finding childcare that was able to work with her job schedule, which could change weekly.

“Sometimes when I’ve found a child care center that offered this flexible coverage, I found myself disappointed by the quality of the actual programs, the facilities or even the staff,” Rodriguez said.

Statistics provided from Child Care Aware show that, in 2011, Virginians typically paid between $8,300 and $10,650 a year for full-time care for infants and toddlers. In comparison, the 2012 in-state tuition at the University of Virginia was just more than $12,000.

Stephanie and Dominique Eley told their story of homelessness, stemming from the inability for both of them to keep a job expecting their child. They went through several houses, but never had to spend a night on the streets due to help they received from churches. They are now working with Habitat for Humanity to build their own home.

According to Habitat for Humanity, about 4,000 families in Charlottesville spend more than half of their income on housing.

Of the 254 votes cast Monday, crime and drugs received 116, housing received 80 and education received the remaining 58. Members from 24 congregations voted.

The night also featured a progress report on two earlier initiatives: young adult unemployment and youth mental health.

Through working with IMPACT, UVa Health Systems has applied for a grant that would allow it to take 50 unemployed or underemployed young adults, aged 18-25, for skills training, mentoring and education to help them get employment in the healthcare field, said Patricia Cluff, associate vice president for strategic relations and marketing for UVa Health Systems.

After completion of the program, candidates will then be able to apply for entry level positions at UVa Health Systems.

As for youth mental health, both Fluvanna and Greene counties have been able to install telepsychiatry equipment to help children get psychiatric services, said Region Ten Executive Director Robert Johnson.

IMPACT hears updates on organization’s goals

Monday, May 5, 2014. The Daily Progress.

Maybe they aren’t changing the world, but a yearlong effort by members of a local interfaith and cross-denomination organization is changing Central Virginia.

Efforts by the Interfaith Movement Promoting Action by Congregations Together — IMPACT — led to Region Ten plans to double the number of hours available for children’s mental health; more funding of homeless prevention programs; better communication and cohesion among homeless service providers; and an effort by the University of Virginia Health System to train local youth for entry-level medical positions.

A thousand or more community faithful from Christian, Jewish and Islamic congregations met Monday evening at John Paul Jones Arena for the eighth annual Nehemiah Action assembly to hear from agencies tasked with implementing the organization’s goals.

The goals were set at an October meeting of the organization.

“Our primary motive is faith, not civic duty,” said Bob Bayer, of Westminster Presbyterian Church and IMPACT’s co-president. “We are not a political movement, although we acknowledge that there is a political component to almost of the injustices we hope to address.”

The assembly was called to report the results of IMPACT’s efforts at addressing social and economic injustice, from unemployment among youth to the lack of mental health care for youth. Members of the organization met to discuss proposals and spent the past six months, and longer in some cases, working with local officials.

IMPACT committee members reported strides made in serving the region’s homeless families and in preventing those with emergency needs from becoming homeless. They noted that the organization’s efforts helped bring service providers together and make an additional $250,000 available via grants.

Perhaps the big win was a commitment by Region Ten, the agency that provides mental health services for Central Virginia, to hire a part-time child psychiatrist and expand the number of treatment hours available.

IMPACT officials noted that Region Ten, funded by state money and Medicaid, had only enough child psychiatrists and psychologists available to provide 15 hours a week, from 9 a.m. to noon Fridays. That left hundreds of children without care.

“For a community with the abundance of resources this community has, this patched together program is not enough,” said Sheila Herlihy, of Church of the Incarnation Catholic Church, who served on the group’s mental health committee.

Robert Johnson, executive director of Region Ten, said he and his staff agreed.

“We believe we have developed a plan, a basic strategy to expand telepsychiatric contacts and secure a part-time child psychiatrist, which would bring us to 40 hours a week of service,” Johnson said.

Johnson said Region Ten had found grants and money available to expand telepsychiatry into Nelson and Greene counties as well as hire the part-timer.

Although the televised service should be available in both counties by the end of the year, finding a part-time psychiatrist will be more difficult, he said. He expects someone to be hired by next summer.

Impact committee members studying youth employment had asked UVa Health System to start a pilot program of tuition waivers for 30 students to train in entry-level medical positions. They estimated the cost to be $90,000.

UVa officials agreed to look into grants that would create a similar program with other funding coming from local organizations and “stakeholders.” They stopped short of promising a unilaterally funded program should the grants fail or stakeholders not be found.

The agencies agreed to report back to Impact at the organization’s October assembly.

IMPACT sharpens focus on mental health services for youth

April 7, 2014. The Daily Progress.

Armed with the results of a survey of public school students in Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Sheila Herlihy on Monday made her case for bolstering child psychiatric care before several hundred people at the Church of the Incarnation.

“We know of 376 students in our local schools who have seriously considered suicide,’ Herlihy said, “and kids in crisis wait an average of three months to by seen by a psychiatrist at Region Ten [Community Services Board].”

Representatives of the 26 groups comprising the nonprofit Interfaith Movement Promoting Action by Congregating Together vowed action on the issue, culled from community meetings held the month before Virginia’s fragmented mental health system was thrust into the national spotlight with the case of Austin C. “Gus” Deeds.

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THE DAILY PROGRESS/RYAN M. KELLY

Fred Schneider raises his arm in celebration as his congregation from Hinton Avenue United Methodist Church is welcomed during the IMPACT rally for mental health and unemployment initiatives on Monday at the Church of the Incarnation.

The challenge comes as Region Ten, one of 40 community services boards across the state that form the backbone of the Virginia’s public mental health system, turns to localities facing for help retaining school counseling positions that would otherwise disappear when federal grant money dries up in June.

The nine social workers serving the county and city high schools and middle schools through the federal Safe Schools Healthy Students program worked with 910 students last school year and provided about 6,000 hours of mental health services, according to an annual report.

“We’re scrambling to secure funding for five of those positions,” said Neta Davis, senior director of Child and Family Services for Region Ten. “It’s been an invaluable service for the kids and the point is to prevent disasters and crises.”

Davis said she has requested that Albemarle County and Charlottesville fund two positions each at a cost of about $60,000 per position. Region Ten plans to fund the fifth.

More needs to be done to cut down the wait list for child psychiatry, Davis said, but she estimated the average for an initial consultation at four to six weeks.

“There is definitely a wait here and there is also a wait on the private side,” she said. “We would absolutely love to have a full-time child psychiatrist, but that would cost … more than $100,000.”

The wait for counseling and other mental services is not as long, she said. Davis said the organization provided mental health services to 1,135 children in Albemarle and Charlottesville in the last fiscal year, independent of the work done in schools.

Psychiatric services for children through Region Ten are available 15 hours per week through a contract with the University of Virginia’s Child and Family Psychiatry Department and Horizons Behavioral Health. The service is provided for nine hours each week in Charlottesville, four hours in Louisa County and two hours in Nelson County, Davis said.

“There is a national shortage of psychiatrists, especially in specialty areas such as child psychiatry,” said Eric Swensen, spokesman for UVa Medical Center.

IMPACT organizers say they have tackled complex problems before. Last year, the group took on homelessness and helped organize a coalition of nonprofit associations to share information and secure grant funding.

“Because of our working in separate silos, our community was missing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant funding to address homelessness,” said Al Horton, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Charlottesville.

The group will hear an update on the progress of this initiative at IMPACT’s signature event May 5 at John Paul Jones Arena. The goal in all efforts, big and small, is to promote social justice, said Bob Bayer, liaison to the group for Westminster Presbyterian Church.

“Justice is a state where everybody in the community is related to with respect and with equity,” Bayer said. “Not equality, equity.”

$950,000 leveraged for homelessness service providers

Charlottesville, VA- IMPACT catalyzed a restructuring of the community’s approach to homelessness at their 2013 Nehemiah Action. Charlottesville city manager and Albemarle County Executives agreed to convene a Roundtable to Reduce Homelessness, which would enable the entire community to better share information and leverage funding so that we might see an actual reduction in the number of homeless individuals and families in our area. In the time since this commitment was made, the roundtable has leveraged an additional $950,000 for service providers that otherwise would have been left on the table. We know of 16 families who have been prevented from becoming homeless as a direct result of the way this roundtable has changed our community.