On Aug. 8, those of us who live in Clay County have a unique opportunity to make a significant positive impact on the lives of children for generations to come. In the more than 60 years we have lived in the Northland, we’ve seen tremendous growth and change, both in our many thriving neighborhoods and in the wonderful people who live here. We appreciate the history and the potential of the community we are proud to call home. While many good things have happened with this passage of time, compelling statistics show significant areas of concern:
▪ The number of children who qualify for free and/or reduced lunch reaches between 40 and 60 percent in many schools in Clay County.
▪ Due to lack of capacity, Synergy Services must turn away approximately 200 youth annually who need transitional housing.
▪ 30-50 percent of youth aging out of foster care do not have stable housing and risk becoming homeless.
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▪ Access to mental health services is lacking. It’s the only area in which Clay County has been deemed a Health Professional Shortage Area, and it is estimated that nearly 40 percent of those needing help go untreated.
Our personal and professional endeavors have allowed us a firsthand view of the chasm that exists between need and available resources for the children of our community. For all the challenges, we have also witnessed the life-changing result of provision of care — the right services at the right time. Many great organizations and public institutions are working hard to address these issues, but lack of financial resources is a chronic obstacle. Organizations like Tri-County Mental Health and Synergy Services among others have the knowledge and experience to make a difference, but often find the need exceeds their current capacity. New sources of revenue are critical and hard to find. While the need is great, our community is up to the task. We have this moment on Aug. 8 to stand together in service to those who will shape the future. A great window of opportunity is at hand.
The State of Missouri allows counties like ours to vote on a quarter-cent sales tax that can be used to fund necessary resources for struggling children to become successful, resilient, contributing members of society. This initiative is called the Children’s Services Fund, represented as Proposition One on the Aug. 8 ballot.
If passed, the measure would capture one penny out of every four dollars spent to generate $8 million annually for Clay County youth. For every single dollar invested in prevention, our community would save $11 in future treatment costs. We are further assured by the legal requirement dictating that all funds from the tax be spent on residents in Clay County. As evidence of their success, Children’s Services Funds in other Missouri counties produce excellent outcomes — dropout, juvenile crime and teen pregnancy rates have decreased by an average of 50 percent.
For the growth and development of our community, for the children, we implore you to join us at the polls on Election Day. We know August is a time many people are enjoying the last days of summer before school starts. Many are visiting friends and family out of town. So, we encourage you to mark your calendars for Aug. 8, and if you are going to be gone, take the time to vote before you go through an absentee ballot. This one is just too important; the opportunity is too great and the stakes are too high to let anything keep us all from the polls. Passage of Proposition One, The Children’s Services Fund initiative, will ensure the most vulnerable of our society — children in need — are safe and healthy for generations to come.
Terry and Linda Ward were honored as Volunteers of the Year by Nonprofit Connect because of their extended work in improving the lives of young people in our metropolitan area.