Local Family Services Agency Loses Funding – Monterey Herald

The agency that provides counseling, suicide prevention and support services to Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties is not receiving funding this year from Santa Cruz County and the City of Santa Cruz.

This is the first time in 40 years of partnership with the county and city that the Central Coast Family Services Agency, which has provided mental health services in the region for 65 years, has not received funding for its programs and services.

Previously, the Family Service Agency received $172,000 from CORE funding grants.

David Bianchi, executive director of the Family Service Agency, said local government funding is the organization’s biggest source of funding and estimated its loss equals about 8.5% of the agency’s revenue and support. ‘agency.

“We are obviously working to determine for our next fiscal year, starting July 1, what exactly the impact is,” Bianchi said. “There’s no easy way to tell people trying to access your services that you don’t have the proper resources to see them.”

The agency also supports the Suicide Hotline.

The grant is from Santa Cruz County and City’s Collective of Results and Evidence-based (CORE) Investments, which is a local competitive funding application program that aims to achieve equitable health and well-being in Santa Cruz County. Santa Cruz.

Jason Hoppin, communications manager for the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors, explained that the process was established in 2015 to distribute scarce local community fundraising funds.

“The problem was that for nearly 40 years we had given money to the same nonprofits over and over again. There was no provision to see how much of that money was used or what the benefits were. for the community,” he explained. “And that shut out other nonprofits that might be worthy and have new ideas from the process.”

Equity is at the heart of the CORE program. The funding awarded focuses on programs that provide equitable improvements in the well-being of disadvantaged members of the community. About $5.8 million is available for various three-year grants — $4.8 million from the county and $1 million from the city — starting July 1 and running through 2025.

County and city staff partnered with outside panelists to review and award the funding, which was approved by council on June 7 and will be passed in the June budget at the end of the month.

Entries were scored and judged by the judging panel based on the extent to which: the entry understood community needs and inequalities; the services offered will influence these needs and inequalities, and the agency has the capacity to succeed. Almost half (47%) of this year’s applicants came from new organizations, and out of a total of 128 applicants, only 36 were recommended for funding.

Hoppin said the recommendations were based on the organizations that wrote the best proposals. He stressed that change is needed to make a difference and improve how local government spends money on behalf of the county community.

“If you want to have a fair and open process, you can’t look at two proposals and then say, ‘Well, this organization has always had funds, so we’re just going to follow them, even if this other organization has a better proposal. It’s just not fair to everyone involved,” he said.

Bianchi emphasized that county funding doesn’t need to be all-or-nothing.

“Unfortunately, the impression is that we should not assume that we would be funded from one cycle to the next. And I think that basic premise is wrong,” Bianchi said. “It’s not that we want to prevent other agencies from accessing funds, the question is: if you fund existing services and clients, how can you then respond to new demands that also have merits? …if existing services are still important and well executed, then you are injecting new funds into the process to add to the safety net, not to destroy the foundations for bringing in new agencies and services.

The Family Service Agency requested funding of $195,970 – $47,250 for suicide prevention services and $148,720 for mental health services. Its two applications were not included in the recommendations to the board since the organization’s applications scored below the required 84-point threshold.

Bianchi spent more than six months preparing his organization’s bid, including attending trainings, meetings and discussions about the process.

“Even though our scores on previous applications have been high, we have always taken this seriously,” he said. “The idea that non-recommended applications, many of which were from existing agencies like ours, that all of a sudden none of us could write an application, I think is an unfortunate premise.”

The Family Services Agency was not the only previously funded agency to be excluded from this year’s recommendations.

Community Bridges, a Santa Cruz nonprofit that has provided a variety of services to the community at little or no cost for more than 40 years, was denied its $816,000 funding request, which actually the applicant with the largest amount of funding denied. The agency’s funding application for its meals-on-wheels program was the only one to be accepted and was recommended for funding of $436,221.

Jayme Ackemann, director of marketing for Community Bridges, said the agency was shocked to learn it would not receive funding for most of its programs and services.

“What really bothers me is the way [they’re] looking at total dollars and saying in total dollars “we’re actually expanding the pot, there are more nonprofits being funded,” she said. “And while that may be true…the fact is that by reducing funding allocations for these other vital services, there are communities that are simply going to be geographically unserved.”

Ackemann said the funding the organization normally receives from Santa Cruz goes toward operating costs needed to keep its facilities open. Without the funding, Community Bridges expects to have to partially close the four family resource centers and drastically reduce its services – at a time when the organization has seen a 50% increase in the number of people requiring its services.

The World Health Organization announced in March that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a 28% increase in cases of major depressive disorder and a 26% increase in anxiety disorders worldwide in 2020.

The pandemic has also caused significant disruption to mental health services, according to the organization’s study, which said that before COVID-19, only a minority of people with mental health conditions received treatment and that the pandemic has further widened the mental health treatment gap.

The timing of the funding recommendations also coincides with the Family Services Agency’s transition to the three-digit 988 mental health crisis helpline number.

The hotline will launch nationwide on July 16 and is expected to improve access to psychiatric care for people seeking mental health help, but it is also expected to increase the number of callers. Many organizations, including the Family Service Agency, fear they may not have the infrastructure or staff to handle the increase.

Bianchi said the agency is counting on city and county funding to help ease the transition without affecting other departments in the organization, but it may no longer have all the resources it had hoped for. .

With the helpline launching on July 16 and the organization’s new fiscal year beginning on July 1, the Family Services Agency is scrambling to find other sources of funding in a matter of weeks.

“All of this basically happened in the space of a week,” Bianchi explained.

About 19 organizations have appealed the funding decisions made by the board, which will be reviewed and decided at the board meeting on June 28. Until then, the Family Services Agency and Community Bridges are asking community members to call the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors. and tell them their stories and why the organizations’ services are needed.

“It’s easy to talk about it in a sterile atmosphere, but when you talk to someone who has lost someone to suicide and they ask you, ‘why are you doing this?’, until they hear about these people, they don’t understand,” Bianchi said. “I think that’s the unfortunate part of it all. It was a process in which a lot of time and money was invested. But in the end, when you have a process, and you want to keep how awesome that process was and all of a sudden you’re looking at the wreckage of the results – maybe you need to take another look.

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