United Way announces 2017-18 community health investments

The Heart of Missouri United Way Board of Directors has approved and finalized its 2017-18 Community Impact investments in key community health issues. Beginning July 1, a total of $484,767.23 will be invested in health programs and services offered by 10 local nonprofit agencies.

The investment represents the first year of funding for a new three-year health funding cycle. Another $1,263,108.48 continues to be invested in United Way’s other 24 partner agencies in the impact areas of education, financial stability and basic needs on staggered, multi-year funding cycles, totaling $1,747,875.71 in 2017-18 investments.

The agencies that will receive funding for health programs are Boys & Girls Clubs of Columbia; City of Refuge; Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture; Family Counseling Center; Family Health Center of Boone County; First Chance for Children; Great Circle; Lutheran Family & Children’s Services; Phoenix Health Programs; and Sustainable Farms & Communities. First Chance for Children will be a newly funded United Way agency.

“Due to the success of the 2016 community campaign, we are able to increase our investment in health programs and services by six percent,” says Andrew Grabau, executive director of Heart of Missouri United Way. “We are proud to invest these additional funds to help address our most pressing and immediate community health needs.”

One pressing community health need lies in the area of opioid abuse treatment. United Way will invest $87,000 a year for the next three years in a substance abuse therapy program offered by Phoenix Health Programs, which offers enhanced opioid addiction treatment. According to Phoenix, Missouri’s rate of death due to opioid overdose is above the national average and has more than quadrupled in the last decade.

In January United Way began accepting funding requests from local agencies offering health programs and services, receiving 18 proposals from 16 agencies. Twenty-seven community volunteers spent nearly 400 hours reviewing the requests and visiting the agencies to ensure that funding decisions align with community needs and will maximize every dollar.

“United Way received more than $1.1 million in funding requests for health programs and services from local agencies, and we had just under $485,000 to answer those requests,” says Mahree Skala, chair of the all-volunteer United Way health advisory council that reviewed the requests. “The funding we invest is community money, and we are proud that community volunteers drive these funding decisions. It’s a data-driven process and the decisions are never easy, but the volunteers are very committed.”              

In addition to enlisting the help of volunteers, United Way coordinated with three other large, local funders to ensure critical health needs are being funded and that efforts are not unnecessarily doubled. The funders include the Boone County Community Services Department, Boone County/City of Columbia Department of Public Health & Human Services and the City of Columbia Community Development Department.

“Aligning our efforts with community partners like United Way makes improving the health of all county residents, as outlined in the Columbia/Boone County Community Health Improvement Plan, more attainable,” says Kelly Wallis, director of Boone County Community Services. “By knowing which community partners are tackling which health areas, it makes it easier to avoid duplicating efforts and helps us to identify gaps in critical areas of need.”

United Way will begin accepting three-year funding proposals for education programs and services, as well as two-year funding proposals for basic needs programs and services in January 2018, and three-year funding proposals for financial stability programs and services in January 2019.

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