CARE Partnership loses key funding

After investing about $600,000 into the Clallam County-based Community Advocates for Rural Elders (CARE) Partnership, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has pulled its funding from the program.

The CARE Partnership formed in 2003 to address issues around aging populations in Clallam County and to better coordinate those providing services to the elderly.

Then, a year later, two grants came along to bolster the partnership's goals.

In 2004, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation began funding the planning and implementation of a CARE Partnership that would "fundamentally change how aging and long-term care services are delivered to older adults and their caregivers."

CARE was one of 24 community partnerships around the nation to receive the funding.

But in the early summer of 2008, CARE organizers began hearing that they would no longer be funded and received the final decision about three weeks ago.

"It's a difficult thing to deal with, but the partnership is stronger than ever before so this is anything but the end," CARE board member and Clallam County Commissioner Steve Tharinger said. "Over the next few months we are really going to be poring over our existing programs to make sure they continue to be sustainable and we will take a good look at CARE and see how we can organize it to be able to stand alone perhaps a bit sooner than initially expected."

Had things gone as planned, the grant would have lasted through 2010.

But things didn't go as planned. The partnership suffered from multiple employee turnovers and its plan perhaps didn't fit into the framework of what the foundation was looking for in its program, according to Tharinger.

"I'm not saying they were unsubstantiated," Tharinger said. "I'm just not sure if they fully gathered the work we'd done to become sustainable as a partnership and how we've made the initial start-up programs viable on their own as well."

Adam Coyne, director of public relations for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said the partnership had good financial management and that its members were dedicated to its cause but it had not met the agreed upon time line for moving forward.

"It had gotten to a point where it looked like it no longer made sense to move forward with this portion of the grant because the organization didn't complete the project as intended in the time line we had agreed upon," he said. "CARE did good work, but the guidelines were not being met on time, so we could no longer administer the grant."

CARE is the only agency of the 24 across the nation to lose its funding thus far. Coyne said CARE was perhaps about two years behind the other partnerships, or still in its learning and development stage, as opposed to an implementation phase.

Other locations for the project include San Francisco and Fremont, Calif., and Oak Park, Ill.

The goal for the end of the grant period was to have a sustainable partnership formal enough and committed enough to continue without the grant's funding.

Tharinger said the loss of funding will really be the true test for how sustainable the partnership is. It has dozens of partner agencies and has coordinated services and programs for seniors living in the area.

"We've had some big successes, so while I understand the foundation's protocol and some issues the partnership had with staffing, I think the good that is coming out of this will carry this thing beyond the early end of a grant," Tharinger said. "We have viable programs that are making a big difference in senior care."

He said volunteers are lined up for programs, the delivery of services has improved and tribes have a greater awareness of what is available for their older populations as a result of the partnership.

"We have coalitions that will continue to work as CARE continues to exist," Tharinger said. "It will be tough in the coming months, but we have Jody Moss with the United Way acting as a coordinator for now, helping us during this transition."

CARE's coalitions include mobility for life, depression detection, helping hands and helping neighbors, safe and affordable housing and information access for seniors.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation didn't drop all of its funding to CARE, as it is paying for a new program called Tyze, which connects isolated seniors through online social networking sites.

Tharinger wasn't sure whether or not CARE would continue to have a full-time staff or if the partnership would be self-sustained by its member agencies.

"These are things we will need to look at as this year wraps up and as we wrap up the contracts under the grant that ends this year," he said.

Tharinger said CARE will continue to provide easy access to information, create a system of services that support long-term care needs, create solutions to current and future challenges and advocate through a network of engaged citizens to create positive change for the aging population, regardless of the setback.

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