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Why Nonprofit Funding is Essential for State Services

March 10, 2021

by Heather Gates
President & CEO, CHR

We need your help. As a health care and housing provider we have been delivering essential services to those most in need for decades and have continued to do so throughout the pandemic. We know we need to treat the mental health, substance use and/or primary care needs as well as help with housing and employment. Throughout the health care system there is much discussion about addressing the social determinants of health yet this cannot be done without funding to support all the costs of delivering services. We are asking for $461 million over a five year period to help restore the funding for human services that has been lost over the last decade because of cuts and erosion due to inflation. At the same time the demand for services has increased and will only continue to do so because of the pandemic. We are essential health care providers.

CHR is a large health and housing provider serving overSince 2013, grant funding for behavioral health services has been cut significantly. Over the same period of time, opioid deaths in Connecticut have more than doubled. 27,000 children, families and adults every year. We have over 900 employees. We receive funding from every state agency as well and Medicaid, Medicare and other insurance. We receive some Federal funding and a small amount of private donations. We are Connecticut’s first CCBHC and do not turn anyone away due to an inability to pay. CHR provides mental health and substance use treatment, including methadone clinics, school based clinics, extensive community based services, housing and supports, emergency crisis response, primary care, residential treatment, and prevention services. We have been on the forefront of responding to the opioid crisis including opening Methadone clinics in several Connecticut prisons. The demand for our services has never been greater.

In the meantime, our funding has consistently been cut or level funded. Grant funding for mental health and substance use services was cut beginning in 2013 – 17% to mental health and 30% to substance use services. In the middle of an opioid crisis! Intensive supported housing was cut in the DMHAS budget making it more difficult than ever to manage discharges from CVH or adequately serve individuals in the community.

Level funding does not keep up with the increase in the cost of living or the competitive market for staff who are the heart of our work. Our staff come from a wide range of backgrounds including master prepared, nursing, psychiatrists, BA, lived experience and many others. All of them deserve to be paid market rates and this is very challenging when we do not receive annual funding increases to keep up with wage growth. This is true across all disciplines. Inadequate funding also affects our ability to recruit and retain a diverse workforce which is so essential to delivering culturally competent services and building a strong culture of inclusivity and equity.

Over the last ten years we have experienced dramatic and permanent increases in health insurance, occupancy costs, food, gas, and almost every other cost associated with delivering services. During this time our only choice to balance our budget has been to eliminate programs and positions which decreases access to services. The pandemic, and the costs associated with protecting our staff and clients, has added further financial stress to a system already underfunded with little to no reserves. We have not received adequate financial support from the state during the pandemic so sadly we have to make decisions about cutting costs and furloughing staff.

We need your help to appropriate $461 million over the next five years to stop the flow of red ink and to recognize the essential role that we play in the healthcare system. Nonprofits across the state are facing similar struggles, whether their focus is in health, housing, or beyond. These nonprofits provide essential services to Connecticut residents, and to cut or level their funding is to risk decreasing the quality of service in Connecticut to the people who need it most.