Women’s Fund El Dorado examines community needs for 2013

By From page A10 | February 15, 2013

Nearly 150 members of the Women’s Fund El Dorado gathered on Jan. 24 for a dinner meeting at the Cold Springs Country Club in Placerville to learn more about the community needs they had identified as most important.

Currently, the Women’s Fund has 275 members, with an endowment of $181,000. The proceeds from memberships are used to fund programs that create positive change.

Women’s Fund Chair Maureen Carter told the members that from 2008 through 2012, the Women’s Fund has awarded $200,000 in grants to nonprofit agencies serving the western slope of El Dorado County. The funds were allocated in six categories: arts and culture; children and youth; education; health and wellness; human services; and women and girls.

In 2012, the Women’s Fund allocated $40,000 in Focus grants to three agencies providing services to youth. In addition, three agencies shared $10,000 in Impact grants for programs in arts, education and senior health and wellness. “Thirteen thousand community members have benefitted from our philanthropy,” said Carter.

 Women’s Fund El Dorado was established in 2007 under the auspices of the El Dorado Community Foundation, which provides financial, legal and clerical coverage.

Members selected the priorities for 2013 through a Community Needs Forum Survey. The 2013 theme is “Exploring Needs in Our Community.” The three areas of concentration are youth development, health and mental health, and senior support services.

Representatives from the three areas described the services that are available and what are lacking.

Youth development

El Dorado County Office of Education Deputy Superintendent Jeremy Meyers addressed this year’s most pressing issues for the county’s young people. Meyers will assume the position of Superintendent on July 1, succeeding Superintendent Vicki Barber, who announced her retirement effective June 30.

Meyers listed teen suicide, school bullying, school safety, transitions for foster youth, and youth leadership opportunities as areas of concern.

School safety is an increasing concern. El Dorado County experienced the horror of a school shooting when Schnell Elementary School Principal Sam LaCara was shot to death in February 2011 in his office in Placerville by a former employee. School safety is addressed by an ongoing interagency relationship among public agencies, including the Office of Education, Sheriff’s office, Probation, Health, Mental Health, Children’s Protective Services and District Attorney’s office. More work on prevention and response is needed.

Meyers said there are 250 foster youth in El Dorado County. When they turn 18, they are no longer supported by the state. They need help with education and job training and placement. They need a path to transition from foster care to healthy members of society. The County Office of Education offers assistance through a Foster Youth Coordinator.

The County Office of Education has taken the role of facilitator for the Youth Commission, a leadership program whose members are appointed by the Board of Supervisors. Student representative Kyle Brown, from El Dorado High School, could not attend the program, but prepared a video with his remarks. Brown said that while some students are obviously having problems with bullying or depression, “there are others we never suspect who are struggling mightily.” He sees bullying as more than a school issue. “It also needs to be addressed as a community issue,” he said.

Health and Mental Health

Patricia Charles-Heathers, County Health and Human Services Agency Program Manager and adjunct professor at Sacramento State University Department of Counseling, talked about the challenges families face to help their loved ones who suffer from mental illness.

She described the families as feeling that their dreams are lost, and they often feel guilty about the situation. Medications used to treat mental illness can have side effects such as not feeling normal, which often results in refusal to use the medication. Self-medication with alcohol and drugs is common.

The transitional age around 16 is when serious breaks can occur, she said. If the person suffering from mental illness is under 18, the family is the decision-maker and the parents have a right to know about treatment. If the person is over 18, the HIPAA Confidentiality law gives the person the right to decline to share any information with family members.

Charles-Heathers said that intervention makes a difference for people who are impaired by mental illness. But she cautioned that recovery is a back-and-forth thing. The stigma of mental illness is still a serious obstacle to recovery.

The Outpatient Clinic at 670 Placerville Drive provides adult and children services from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The Psychiatric Health Facility on Spring Street is a 10-bed stabilization center where patients who are considered a danger to themselves or others are placed for 72 hours and evaluated.

Support services in the community are provided by faith-based groups, Marshall Library and family support groups.

Senior support services

Karen Shelnutt is chair of El Dorado County Health Ministries. As a Faith Community Nurse, she works through the Federated Church as a member of the Health Connections Team.

She said that El Dorado County has 1-1/2 the number of older adults as typical communities. Research from the Center for Disease Control, MacArthur Foundation and National Academies of Science indicate that 50 percent of people 85 and older have cognitive disorders, and the number of people who reach age 100 and above is growing five percent annually.

She posed the question, “What would be the infrastructure for older adults?”  She said, “We are pioneers in what it means to age. We have no system in place for us to grow into.”

Shelnutt said older adults need transportation. Many do not drive. The senior shuttle only operates in Placerville, and demand for Dial-a-Ride outstrips its service capability. Seniors need a central number to call for information. Families of seniors need the same.

She said that 45 percent of admissions to Marshall Medical Center are patients 65 and older. She added that 90 percent are readmitted. In-home health care is needed to maintain treatment for chronic conditions.

Grant awards

The grants committee will prepare requests for proposals from agencies that provide services in the targeted areas. Members will vote their choices. A reception for the recipients will be held June 6.

Following the program, co-founder Katy Peek said, “The Women’s Fund success has been extraordinary. It is the second largest grant making organization in the county. I could not be more proud of the philanthropic spirit of our members.”

For more information, visit, or call 530-622-5621.

Roberta Long

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