CDCAC finds a region composed of ‘haves and have nots’ looming

WENATCHEE ― The likelihood of Chelan and Douglas counties being composed of sizable numbers of “have and have-not” residents in the future is real if current economic trends continue, according to a Community Needs Assessment released this week by the Chelan-Douglas Community Action Council.

Over the past few years, the two counties have lagged behind the state in income levels, poverty rates, educational attainments, employment rates, and health statistics. Indeed, the gap between the two counties and state in these areas ― including for youth ― is either climbing or has remained static over several decades.

At the same time today, the region is growing and attracting new residents and businesses thanks to technological advances and quality-of-life considerations. 

“Our area is growing, recording record homes sales and job creation, our challenge is how do we as a community support our residents, reduce barriers to success and access and create opportunities for all,” said Alan Walker, executive director of the Chelan-Douglas Community Action Council (CDCAC).

The Community Needs Assessment is meant to determine strengths and gaps in the local social-services network. It is required by federal law every three years.

Walker said his organization will take the findings and information from the Community Needs Assessment and identify ways to break down barriers, mobilize efforts to address poverty, and strengthen and solidify partnerships and resources. That work, in the form of a strategic plan, should be done by November.

CDCAC spent about five months collecting information for the Community Needs Assessment report. The information gathering utilized 48 statistical indicators, a community survey completed by 411 residents, six focus groups attended by 70 community leaders, interviews of 10 stakeholders, and a public forum attended by about 25 residents.

The Community Needs Assessment Report is 150 pages long and includes an executive summary outlining the main findings, along with summaries from each information-gathering tool. For an online copy, visit cdcac.org/community-needs-assessment--annual-report.html.  Or simply go to: cdcac.org and click on the Community Needs Assessment tab.

The report found housing is residents’ highest priority community resource today, followed by health care, education, employment and mental health services. However, each of those resources is marked by their own deficiencies, CDCAC found.

The assessment identified what it described as “red flags” ― threats to the region’s well-being. Those include a continuing housing crisis; rising youth poverty and obesity rates; 30 percent of survey respondents saying they and/or a family member have gone without a meal due to finances; Hispanics expressing fear about sharing information; one-third of the two-county region’s being on Medicaid; abundant drug use within families and neighborhoods; and the lack of affordable and available early childhood learning programs.

Walker said the large number of people skipping a meal due to finances reinforces the need for food pantries that are open for more than 2 or 3 hours a week.

The rising obesity rates for local youth, at a time when statewide rates are going down, also are a surprise.

“We have trails that are five minutes away,” said David Olson, CEO of Columbia Valley Community Health in Wenatchee. “As a rule people walking in the Foothills are already living a healthy life. It’s the people who don’t exercise that we need to reach. The community has the resources, but a significant number of people experience barriers that keep them from taking advantage of those resources.”

Residents cited several other barriers they typically face in accessing community services and resources, including:

 People are living in places far away from employment, education and health care options.

 Some do not qualify for services or can’t afford services. Others can’t access services due to providers’ hours of operation.

 The system is difficult to navigate, in part due to numerous jurisdictions and numerous providers. The lack of information about services and providers creates additional confusion.

 The language barrier is a real impediment for many. So is the fear of sharing information.

“One thing that really surprised me was people not knowing where to turn,” Walker said. “I wrongly thought there was enough information out there.”

Walker said CDCAC is already tackling the drug issue by bringing in this fall two AmeriCorps volunteers who will focus on opioid education, storage and disposal and ways to prevent abuse among senior citizens and sixth- to 12thgrade students.

The Community Action Council services include food, housing, weatherization, asset building, adult literacy, energy assistance, AmeriCorps, RSVP and other community support services in the region.  
For more on the Community Action Council, please visit cdcac.org

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