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  2003 Upper Valley Community Needs Study
  
Conclusions :: Acknowledgments :: Community Needs & Issues :: Recommendations
 
In 1997, the Upper Valley United Way published the "Upper Valley Human Services Needs & Assets Assessment," which was based on an earlier needs assessment report. A committee composed of United Way volunteers and local agency representatives coordinated this study. Similarly, in the year 2000, an update to the 1997 study was undertaken by a volunteer advisory committee.


Community Assets


Many areas identified as assets by the 2000 study were similar to those listed in 1997, confirming a broad-based system of human service strengths that the Upper Valley has long been known. These strengths were identified through large institutions -- medical centers, town protective services, school districts, and larger agencies -- and through the network of smaller agencies and organizations which are so critical to the safety net of services available in our community.

  • Food, fuel and clothing assistance
  • Protective services, such as fire, police, ambulance
  • Senior services, such as senior centers, meals-on-wheels programs, home help, assisted living
  • Crisis services, such as suicide prevention, domestic violence, hotlines, intervention
  • Drug and alcohol abuse outreach
  • Volunteerism
  • Daytime public transportation
  • Education (public, post-secondary)
  • Community/public generosity
  • Family and parenting support
  • Acute health care needs
  • Hospice services
  • Community-based education (life-long, adult, continuing education)
  • Financial assistance and arrangements for hospitalization and critical care
  • Developmental disabilities services (care, training, employment, awareness)
  • Recognizing and dealing with children's issues (health, safety, pre-education)
  • Teen issues, including suicide drugs, pregnancy, peer pressures
  • Home health care
  • Community/public sensitivity to human-service needs
  • Inter-agency coordination and cooperation
  • Health environment of the Upper Valley, measured by fewer environmental health threats, lower crime
  • levels, generally healthier life styles
  • Employment opportunities
  • Mental health services

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Community Needs & Issues


Despite the Upper Valley’s economic prosperity since 1997, many of these services have become even more critically in-need, suggesting that a great many Upper Valley residents are not sharing in the current prosperity. In fact, this prosperity has worked adversely for many. Although most are working, wages are low, forcing families to hold multiple jobs with employee benefits that have decreased or are unaffordable. Higher housing prices and demand have caused many of these "working poor" to move farther from the larger communities with health and human service centers. The 2000 Needs Assessment Update identified eleven human service issues that must become a priority for the Upper Valley community.

  1.  Problems of Youth and Teens

  • Continuing crises of drug and alcohol abuse
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Teen pregnancy, especially in rural areas
  • Lack of mentoring, especially in the critical middle/junior high school years
  • Need for additional life skills training for those at risk of dropping out
  • Earlier identification of, and alternative education for, children and youths who are at risk
  • A foster home crisis exists for this other "homeless" category

  2.  Housing and Shelter

  • The lack of emergency and short-term shelter, especially for the recovering mentally ill, recovering addicts, and the convalescing homeless
  • More specialized emergency and short-term shelter
  • The lack of legitimate affordable housing within the nucleus towns (Hanover, Lebanon, Hartford) and near accessible public transportation

  3.  Problems Obtaining Health Care

  • More services to the frail elderly and those chronically ill and difficult to keep at home, including adult day care
  • Dental services for the working poor, especially Medicaid clients
  • Truly affordable employee health care benefits
  • Continuing challenges and roadblocks created by health insurers
  • Skilled home nursing and health care financing

  4.  Substance Abuse

  • Facilities for the displaced recovering addict
  • Adequate facilities for acute detoxification
  • More providers and short-term facilities for dual-diagnosis half-way housing
  • More resources for public education, especially for (but not confined to) rural school districts
  • More collaboration and funding for law enforcement, agencies, and public education programs

  5.  Child-Rearing Problems

  • Affordable, accessible, and flexible child care
  • Combating the drugs and crime reaching children at increasingly younger ages

  6.  Transportation Issues

  • Increasing needs of employees working non-traditional shifts
  • Welfare and other public assistance ignoring the demands of personal transportation
  • Increased traffic, parking, and public safety problems.
  • Taxi service and car pooling generally unavailability in rural communities

  7.  Adult Vocational Education and Job Training

  • More opportunities for low-income workers and those in welfare transition to better themselves in the job market
  • Plight of good candidates for continuing education who must balance the demands  of child-rearing, child care, dysfunctional family problems, and inflexible employment
  • Basic life skills training for adults of all ages

  8.  "Loss of Community"

  • Housing costs forcing people away from the community centers
  • Non-traditional employment schedules and adults with more than one job
  • Loss of community centers and activities
  • Decreasing participation and involvement in local government, education, civic groups
  • Growing sense of isolation among the economically disadvantaged, the uneducated, and the disenfranchised

  9.  Human Service Agency Issues

  • Crises intervention’s chronic issues, budget restraints, too few agencies and staff providing services, and decreasing federal dollars
  • Clients with multiple problems force agencies to address issues outside of primary mission, interrupting and detracting from intended services
  • Federal government’s transition to state block grants: funds end up in projects created without the benefit of agency or community collaboration.
  • Lack of systematic, coordinated approaches to case management by different agencies
  • Smaller human-service agencies losing valuable staff to less fulfilling that pay higher wages

 10.  Legal Services

  • Challenge of providing sufficient information about legal resources to those most in need

 11.  Funding, Advocacy and Collaboration

  • Emergency, short- and long-term funding failing to meet the increasing demand
  • Agency advocacy to improve and broaden public understanding and education
  • Need for more community collaborations to solve problems
     

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Conclusions

   

More agencies and organizations than ever before are working to serve the needs of the residents of the Upper Valley.

The positive impact of this variety of services continues to be a factor in the growth of almost each and every Upper Valley community. All of this is taking place in a region marked by increasing economic success.

Considering these many assets, what is the bad news?

Foremost, the prosperity of the Upper Valley continues to cloak in invisibility hundreds of children, teens, adults, and elderly who are not sharing this economic success. This includes individuals and families unable to afford health or dental insurance, a safe and healthy place to live, quality child care, or adequate transportation to employment that pays a decent wage or to reach needed service providers.

The current generations of children and teens may be the most at-risk population in the Upper Valley at this time. The 2000 Needs Assessment study makes it clear that affordable, quality day care is still in great demand, complicated by the increase of non-traditional working shifts. There are few after-school programs for the youngest school children. The increased availability of drugs and other abused substances has reached "epidemic" proportions. The area’s teenagers, especially in the smaller, rural communities of the Upper Valley, are desperate for safe places and activities. School systems throughout the Valley are struggling to deal with a deluge of students bringing serious problems of home and family life to the classroom.

Housing that can legitimately be called "affordable" is rapidly disappearing. Spiraling real estate prices and property taxes have driven affordable housing away from Lebanon, Hanover, and Hartford. Those who are forced to live farther and farther from the community centers can least afford to reach those services that the larger towns offer -- primarily health care and child care.

Finally, more families and individuals are making poor decisions for their health care, family education, and child care. Risky behavior results because these issues act and react with one-another in what become downward spirals of despair and distress. Service providers are working cooperatively in helping people with multiple needs, and have successfully implemented systems of identification and referral. However, these programs are strained to the limit, and severely hampered by decreasing federal and state support, increasing paperwork and payment delays. Schools desperately need more specialized staff and program funding to work with the increasing number of at-risk children and teens.
 

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Recommendations


Thousands of people of the Upper Valley get much needed help from the community’s health and human service organizations and agencies. This Needs and Assets Assessment Study has affirmed that once a needy person is placed in contact with an appropriate agency or organizations, quality assistance is eventually available.

However, serious concerns for the future involve those hundreds of people who have not made it through the doors of a welcoming agency, or who have been turned away from those doors because of a lack of services or resources. Attention must focus on the unseen and unheard families in crises; children without child care; those people who have inadequate housing or cannot find affordable housing; parents and employees who have no, or unreliable, transportation to get to and from their jobs or necessary services; the individuals caught in cycles of abuse or addiction; and the homeless who are looking for basic food and shelter.

The Upper Valley community must see the unseen: the homeless who are not sleeping on park benches or in doorways; the children who come to school tired, hungry and abused; the pervasive presence of large quantities and variety of easily obtained drugs and alcoholic beverages.

Our community needs to ensure that anyone seeking aid is able to get aid in reasonable time, with minimum frustration, with maximum results. The community at large needs to know what needs to be accomplished. Task forces encompassing leadership from many diverse groups can address many pressing needs and develop process and action plans. Problems such as the growing epidemic in substance abuse, lack of affordable housing, available transportation, and the increasing plight of the "working poor" can be addressed in this way.

The health and human service agencies must step up their efforts to highlight the needs they service.

Finally, individuals of the Upper Valley community must rededicate themselves to volunteering and financially supporting the health and human service agencies and organizations that do exist and should exist.
 

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Acknowledgments


Upper Valley United Way gratefully acknowledges the support of the study’s sponsors. They include Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital, the Upper Valley Community Foundation, and the Mascoma Savings Bank Foundation. Their support has enabled the research, printing, and free distribution of this summary, as well as the complete report, to Upper Valley agencies, organizations, and interested community members.  Upper Valley United Way acknowledges the commitment of these organizations to the health and welfare of area residents.

Request a copy of the 2003 needs assessment report.

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