Staff members at United Way of Rutland County have been working to gather information for the “Overdone Data to Action” project in Rutland County, according to Caprice Hover, United Way’s executive director.
Hover said the staff had been gathering data and interviewing people about overdoses in the Rutland area. She said the role of United Way of Rutland County was to facilitate by bringing stakeholders together, doing the background work of getting the data and conducting surveys to find the gaps that need to be closed in Rutland County.
The project, funded by a $9.5 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is being awarded over three years, is intended to “increase the state’s ability to track and respond to overdoses and overdose fatalities … (and) will strengthen Vermont’s prescription drug monitoring system and prevention efforts already underway across the state,” according to a statement released by the Vermont Department of Health from December 2019.
The health department will distribute the federal funds to Vermont counties, all of which are doing their own work on an overdose data project.
Hover said United Way hasn’t generally tried to tap into local grant funds but that has changed out of necessity.
“We’ve needed to diversity our funding because there’s a lot more competition now than there used to be when United Way, 20 years ago, had 30 people on its (annual funding) campaign team and there wasn’t necessarily as many nonprofits,” she said.
Officials at UWRC learned Nov. 11 that they had been awarded $175,000 for the data project.
Stakeholders, beside the Department of Health, have included Turning Point, Dismas House and Project VISION.
As part of the grant, training will be scheduled with first responders such as emergency medical services and law-enforcement officers based on suggestions from those groups, Hover said,
Other gaps that were identified included a place for women to stay while recovering from addiction, after the Vermont Department of Corrections in the fall barred facilities that allowed men and women to stay at the same site, and a lack of in-person services for those trying to escape addiction.
“There’s not enough face-to-face outreach. Even though there’s a pandemic, you can still do (treatment) in a socially responsible way,” Hover said.
Turning Point will be working with six towns in Rutland County to do increased personal support. Dismas House staff had just gotten the keys to a site where women could stay during their recovery process, she said.
Part of the grant UWRC received will be used to start these two programs.
UWRC staff also applied for a grant from the Vermont health department for funding to support Meals on Wheels and Choices for Care. The meals program delivers food to the elderly or homebound while the choices program helps pay for care and support for older Vermonters and people with physical disabilities who need help with everyday activities at home or in a care facility.
Hover said the source to which they applied was set up to help nonprofits that were seeing increased need and which supported a specific population.
Between those two agencies, UWRC provides about $115,000 a year. But with the health department funding, UWRC was able to “reimburse itself” and provide funding as well to some other busy nonprofits.
“Turning Point is doing the visits at the hotels and giving out safety bags for people, Faith on Foot is giving out hygiene stuff and food, Open Door Mission and Troll House are feeding directly the homeless folks. We really saw a gap there where (those agencies) were barely keeping up,” she said.
The local United Way is just about halfway through their own annual fundraiser. This year, it’s being done without the iconic “thermometer” or “feather” signs that used to be placed in various parts of the downtown to show progress toward reaching the goal.
The latest fundraiser began in September and will continue through the end of June. Hover said about $225,000 had been raised toward the goal of $425,000.
“We still have a long way to go and we can see that donations are down from last year. We’re really, really hoping that the community continues to step up and appreciates the wide variety, not just of grants that we do, but the stuff in between, the COVID stuff, ensuring that folks who are giving out meals have food to give out. We’re seeing a huge need this year,” Hover said.
Hover said the UWRC had raised some money through a silent auction. She said her agency usually spends a few thousand dollars a year on food for fundraising events and this year, they used that money to buy gift certificates from restaurants that had supported them in the past and were now struggling because of the pandemic.
The next step is to make an aggressive pitch to businesses that had weathered the pandemic.
Local residents can help the UWRC achieve its mission goals in a few ways. Donations would help, Hover said, as well as volunteers who can help Meals on Wheels or other agencies assisting those suffering from food insecurity.
Hover, who announced in November that she plans to move to Florida in the spring, said residents should not worry that the UWRC will not continue. She said the agency’s board of directors is interviewing candidates and she has agreed to stay on for up to six months to provide a smooth transition.