Thursday, April 3, 2008

Coalition stresses prevention while lobbying for funds

By Maria Garriga
Register Staff
— Christian Community Action and the Clifford W. Beers Child Guidance Clinic have started a new coalition, urging the state to drastically increase funding for preventative services for at-risk families.
The coalition, called No More Crumbs, is expected to lobby state legislators in Hartford today and hand out 75 loaves of bread donated by the Chabaso Bakery on James Street.
The coalition’s name refers to the notion that prevention services receive crumbs of funding while crisis services, such as psychiatric wards and homeless shelters, receive the bulk of social service money.
Coalition leaders believe that by spending more on prevention services, the state can save on far more costly crisis services.
“Our state needs to fund prevention to end crisis spending,” said Alice Forrester, executive director at Clifford Beers, which offers walk-in and emergency mental health services.
CCA services include emergency housing for the homeless, supportive housing, job training and training economically disadvantaged people how to advocate for themselves.
The Rev. Bonita Grubbs said the agencies decided to start the coalition in February because of increased demand in crisis services at both agencies.
“Too many times we give services after problems have surfaced, after a family is homeless or without food. If we are getting an increased number of people seeking emergency housing, one way to decrease this demand is to work upstream, by offering affordable housing,” Grubbs said.
Hartford-based Mothers on the Move and Vecinos Unidos (Spanish for United Neighbors) have joined the coalition, which is actively seeking more members, Grubbs added.
Crisis services often strain budgets at nonprofit social services agencies.
“We put a lot of money into crisis beds, residential placements, hospitals and not enough to keep children in the community,” Forrester said. Preventative mental health services might include support groups and therapy before families suffer major disruptions that require state involvement.
“Our campaign slogan is: We believe there is enough for everyone and there are recipes for success,” Forrester said. “Success is having a supporting, loving community, stable housing, universal health care, education, child care and trauma treatment for children and families when they need it.”

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