Prevention to crisis, response shift concerns nonprofits

by Michelle Saxton
Thursday, December 15, 2011

Nonprofit services that have slowly evolved into preventative programs aimed at lessening future problems with health care, education and financial stability are now moving back toward crisis response, a local United Way official has said.

"They’re having to retrench, fall back and now deal with people who are in an immediate crisis," Chris Nelson, United Way of the Cape Fear Area president, said Tuesday, Dec. 13. "The utilities are going to be cut off, they’re about to be evicted. Well, that’s not a good place to respond. The place to respond is working with them a year or two years ago with getting them adequate training and giving them adequate employment opportunities."

Nelson was among area nonprofit leaders who attended an annual legislative briefing presented by the North Carolina Justice Center and United Way of North Carolina. Tuesday’s meeting was held at the New Hanover County Executive Development Center in Wilmington. Other Community Conversations roadshow stops were planned throughout the state.

Discussions included an estimated deficit of about 515,500 jobs in North Carolina reported in the presentation, the $1.7 billion in state budget spending cuts for 2011-2012 and an increased demand for nonprofit services.

"A lot more burden is going to fall on the local communities, the local governments, the county governments," Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said to audience members before the presentation. "We’re going to need more of your help. We’re going to need to engage you folks in a lot of different ways as to how we provide services in our community and help those that are in desperate need."

Numbers of Medicaid-eligible people in North Carolina grew 23 percent during the recession period over the last few years, whereas state funding for Medicaid has grown by just 1 percent, the presentation showed, citing data from state departments and the North Carolina Fiscal Research Division.

Medicaid is a state and federal program that helps low-income, aged, blind and disabled residents.

With public education in North Carolina, school enrollment has grown by 1 percent, while state funding has decreased by 3 percent, the report also showed.

Education needs are the root of many issues, the Rev. Don Skinner, executive director of the Phoenix Employment Ministry in Wilmington, said after the presentation.

Skinner, who works with homeless and impoverished people, said they will never be able to earn a living wage until they develop the skills they lack.

"The only way to do that is through education, however it comes, if it’s on-the-job training, if it’s reading a book, if it’s getting to the community college," Skinner said. "Education is critical or they’ll always be right where they are."

For more information, visit N.C. Justice Center:
www.ncjustice.org or United Way of North Carolina:
www.unitedwaync.org

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