Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Showing Up as a Blessing

Last night approximately 250 people, from 27 different faith communities in and around Charlottesville, gathered at the Church of the Incarnation.  There were Seventh Day Adventists, Non-Denominational Christians, Baptists, Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Methodists, Presbyterians, Quakers, ... and us Unitarian Universalists.  (In fact, the contingent from TJMC made up about 10% of the whole!)

We'd come together to get an update on the work IMPACT has been doing this year, and to get us excited about the upcoming Nehemiah Action -- the largest public gathering of any kind in the Charlottesville-Albemarle area and, I believe, the largest interfaith gathering of any kind in the Commonwealth.

Last year, through its highly decentralized and democratic listening and discernment processes, we (and I say "we" because TJMC has been an active part of IMPACT since its beginning a decade ago) choose to address the issue of crime and substance abuse by looking specifically at how to provide a local residential treatment option for women struggling with substance abuse.  Our research showed that roughly 3,150 people are imprisoned here each year who are struggling with alcohol and drug abuse, and nearly all of the women who are incarcerated have also experienced sexual abuse and violence.  The rallying cry of "Care not jail!" helped focus us on this aspect of the rather large issue of "crimes and drugs."

Because of the "people power" that is brought to the table when our faith communities unite through IMPACT, there is now a commitment from the Charlottesville Assistant Manager, the Albemarle Assistant Executive, and Region Ten to build and operate a residential treatment facility that will provide beds for at least 50 women each year, and which will allow the women to bring two children with them!  Currently there is a local residential center for men -- with a capacity to serve 20 individuals -- but the closest residential option for women is 70 miles away, and they have to leave their children at home -- sometimes putting them into foster care, sometimes having siblings separated.  This presents huge hurdles to women seeking out the treatment they need, hurdles which are now being lowered because we came together in the name of justice.  The facility should be open by the summer of 2017!

This year the issue identified has to do with the onerous cost of long-term care for our eldest citizens.  Each year long term-care costs 1.5 times more than the average yearly income of those over 65.  While there are currently many agencies in the Charlottesville area doing great work for the elderly in our community, there is no formal way for these agencies to work together -- to share resources, avoid redundancies, and magnify each other's efforts.  IMPACT's proposal is the creation of a coordinating body, the first task of which would be to quantify how many people in our area are eligible for services yet are not receiving them (something none of these agencies know at present).  Recognizing the real scope of the problem, and creating interconnected networks among service agencies, will be a first step toward truly ... well ... making an impact.

On Tuesday, May 3rd, community leaders will be invited to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Performing Arts Center to to publicly ask for their commitment to work to address this issue.  We, the members of those 27 faith communities are also invited, to show how many people in the Charlottesville-Albemarle area are committed to seeing justice increased for the elderly in our communities.  It is currently estimated that there will be nearly 1,100 people in attendance.  TJMC already has commitments from 93 people, and we're hoping that there'll be 150 of us there.  (That's roughly equivalent to our Sunday sanctuary attendance.)  Maybe you'll join the rest of us?

On May 1st the sermon  in the sanctuary will be exploring what it means to say that we Unitarian Unviersalists are "a people of blessing."  (Our theme for May.)  Without question, one way is our commitment to showing up with, and on behalf of, those who have been pushed to the margins in our society.  We are a people of blessing when we show up for justice.  There are many ways to do that, of course, and a great many of us already show up in all sorts of ways for all sorts of issues.  Would you consider showing up this once more?  It may seem like a small thing, an insignificant thing.  And individually it is.  Yet when we collectively come together that singularly insignificant thing is magnified into something truly potent and powerful.  Together, we can really make an impact.

Friday, April 1, 2016

An Update about IMPACT

Each year, after a process of bringing people together in their congregations for a series of listening circle aimed at identifying real problems in the Charlottesville/Albemarle area, members of these 27 faith communities come together to choose one issue to focus on for that year.  This year, IMPACT is focusing its energies on issues involving elder care.

After several visits and phone calls to experts in the community, the IMPACT Elder Care
Research Committee has now narrowed the problem statement:

Each vear the cost of long-term care is 1.5 times more than the average vearly income
of those over 65. Long-term care can be in home or in a residential setting. There are many
agencies doing great work serving the elderly in Charlottesville. However. there iq currentlv
no formal wav for the maior agencies to work together to address this problem. Therefore,
the full scope of the problem and the many needs of the elderly go unmet.

Many have Medicare or Medicaid but still often they have to decide between care or their other
monthly expenses. Yet every time we tried to determine how many people are in this chasm for
care, agencies affirm it's a problem but they don't know how many are down there. How can we
say we are a great retirement destination if our iead agencies don't know who are struggling to
make it in their late years? Our community is marketed as a great retirement destination but for
whom?

If these options were made more affordable then our community can truly be a great
retirement destination for everyone, not just those well off and not just the elderly.
When we fight for justice for anyone, we are all better ofT. So our committee has begun to
determine what can be done to solve this problem. We could push for getting agencies to pool
resources to identify and meet the gap for care, push for more locality responsibility to these
problems or expand current programs such as Blue fudge PACE. We know that no amount of
research can make up for a lack of people power.

This is why we need you to bring as many of your network members to the Rally on April 12th.
We need to build ownership of our research and learn together how we will stand for our elderly
who can't afford to age with dignity and respect.

Specific Info and Next Steps

  • Cost of local assisted living is double the state average (Genworth)
  • Minimum average cost of long term care: $4,887.56 per month
  • Maximum average cost of long term care: 56,324.84 per month
  • Over 2,000 elders make less than $11,000 per year
  • Looking into the following possible solutions
    • Priorities in the Action 202A plan (comprehensive plans on aging)
    • Expanding PACE
    • Auxiliary Grant expansion or assessment
    • Quantify how many elders are in the "gap"
    • National best practices