Washtenaw County Officials gather to discuss human service needs facing area residents
Several Washtenaw County officials gathered Friday morning to discuss human service needs facing area residents including hunger, homelessness and health care issues. The officials were gathered at the Washtenaw County United Way's Human Services forum, which took place at the Chelsea Comfort Inn, 1645 Commerce Drive. Read the full story...
WASHTENAW COUNTY:Officials gather to discuss human service needs facing area residents
Click here to watch video from the forum.
By Amy Bell
Several Washtenaw County officials gathered Friday morning to discuss human service needs facing area residents including hunger, homelessness and health care issues.
The officials were gathered at the Washtenaw County United Way's Human Services forum, which took place at the Chelsea Comfort Inn, 1645 Commerce Drive.
Officials included representatives from Food Gatherers, Washtenaw Housing Alliance, Washtenaw Health Initiative and Success By Six Great Start Collaborative.
Eileen Spring of Food Gatherers gave an update on hunger relief efforts throughout the county.
She spoke its Food Security Plan, where the organization worked with its partnering agencies to get data from those using services.
"What we found is really tremendous rates of what we call food insecurity," she said.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food security is means access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. Spring said that people who are using food pantries were 76 percent food insecure, the use has become long term and people now need food from a pantry on a regular basis.
According to Spring, 47 percent of households accessing emergency food pantries were accessing food stamps although 73 percent were eligible. Only 13 percent were eating the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables.
Since creating the Food Security Plan in 2008, the organization has worked to helped to increase the capacity of pantries and to also distribute grants to pantries to purchase items such as freezers.
Julie Steiner, executive director of the Washtenaw Housing Alliance, spoke about housing issues throughout the county.
Steiner said Washtenaw is the most expensive rental area in Michigan. The rate of a new downtown unit is $1,000 per bed, per month.
Because of expensive housing, it is hard to provide affordable housing for people in need.
Ellen Rabinowitz, director of the Washtenaw Health Plan, spoke speaking about safety net health care or health care for individuals without insurance.
The Washtenaw Health Plan serves about 8,000 residents but about 30,000 would be eligible.
The organization functions by linking people with primary medical care, access to needed services and to expand capacity and coordinate safety net health agencies.
She also gave an update about the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.
Currently, it is uncertain if Michigan will take part in the Medicaid expansion, which was ruled as constitutional under the U.S. Supreme Court ruling regarding the constitutionality of the ACA. However, the ruling stated that states have the right whether to opt in opt out of the expansion.
Rabinowitz said the Medicaid expansion under the ACA expands the program in two ways: it increases the income threshold from 100 percent to 138 percent of the federal poverty level and also removes eligibility requirements such as pregnancy or disability, she said.
Rabinowitz said there are between 2,500 and 3,000 people in Washtenaw County that are currently eligible for Medicaid and not enrolled.
Officials are currently working with county organizations on outreach programs to find these individuals and enroll them in the program, she said.
"We need to find those people who are eligible for Medicaid, we need to get them enrolled and we need to keep them enrolled," she said.
Margy Long, director of the Success By Six Great Start Collaborative program, discussed ways the organization is working to streamline all early childhood programs in areas like early childhood education and care and parent education and advocacy.
Long said the organization is currently seeing an increase in poverty of young families.
The organization just completed a three-year strategic plan.
After the presentations, officials gathered into breakout groups to discuss specific programs throughout the county.