Making healthcare employment accessible for young adults

Charlottesville, VA- IMPACT worked for three years to move the area’s largest employer to address the fact that young adults were three times more likely to be unemployed than anyone else in the community. After making commitments at the 2013 Nehemiah Action, UVA Medical Center is investing approximately $218,000 to engage and hire unemployed and underemployed 18-25 year-olds.  

Increased access to child psychiatry for children in Charlottesville

Charlottesville, VA- 1,268 people gathered at the Nehemiah Action to press the community’s largest provider of mental health care to nearly triple hours of child psychiatry offered each week. This came after hearing stories of our members facing an average of 3 months for their sick children to see a psychiatrist. During this wait their crises continued.

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.