Why It Matters- Israel Suarez’s Story

Imagine being a single mother of three children, earning $13,000 a year, and learning that your oldest son has cancer. For Israel Suarez’s mother, struggling to make ends meet and trying to ensure your children have food, becomes more than second nature, it becomes a crisis and a matter of life or death. Fortunately for Israel, United Way funded programs paved the way for his family to overcome their circumstances. Learn more as Israel tells his story here

Supporting Moms with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

According to the beautiful images on Instagram and Facebook, a plump new baby and a well-rested, smiling mother enjoying every minute of motherhood is the norm in the early days after giving birth.  But real life does not always play out like it does in curated posts and choreographed photos. Every new mother I know is familiar with the roller coaster that accompanies the first few weeks and months after welcoming a new baby. For many, the days just after giving birth are marked by restless nights in the hospital, an uncomfortable recovery from labor, the learning curve of how to care for a newborn – all while attempting to catch up on sleep.

For some mothers, that’s not where the stress and anxiety ends. Some new moms are grappling with their newborn’s health issues. Some mothers could be jobless, homeless or plagued with an addiction, while others deal with a partner who is deployed or not in the picture. Some new moms are teenagers and may have a minimal support system in place. With all of those factors in play, in addition to recalibrating post-pregnancy hormones, it is no wonder that many mothers feel overwhelmed.

The American Psychological Association says postpartum depression afflicts approximately one out of seven new mothers and can start anytime after giving birth, from a few weeks to a year. With almost four million births reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2016, that means over half a million new mothers are suffering from postpartum depression or anxiety in the U.S. alone. Symptoms and severity range from mood swings, to difficulty sleeping, to feeling overwhelmed to the more serious thoughts of hopelessness or self-harm. A full list of symptoms can be found here. What all new mothers and those around her need to know is that help and support is available to them.

United Way believes that children deserve a strong start in life and that having a healthy mother or caregiver is the first step in that direction. If you or someone you know is a new parent (mother or father) and experiencing any symptoms of postpartum depression or anxiety, reach out for help. Talk to your partner, doctor, pediatrician, other moms, friends or relatives about what you’re going through. You can also call 2-1-1 for immediate assistance.

This Mother’s Day, let’s ensure every mother gets the support and care she needs to be the strongest advocate she can for her new child.

What Every Kid Needs to Do to be Healthier

Now that warmer temperatures are here, it is a great time to get outdoors with kids to enjoy the sunshine and help them get their daily dose of physical activity. With childhood obesity on the rise and kids spending more than seven hours a day in front of screens, it’s more important than ever that children make daily exercise part of their routine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that kids and teens get at least one hour of physical activity per day. Activities like jumping rope, running, climbing on monkey bars and gymnastics are fun ways that kids can fulfill their daily quota, while also strengthening their bones and muscles.

Craig Williams, director of the Children’s Health and Exercise Research Centre at the University of Exeter in England, tells CNN that exercise should include muscle-strengthening activities at least three days a week.

“One of the most important reasons that children should be active is for their bone health, as it is shown that in the adolescent years, 33% to 43% of total bone mass is acquired,” he says.

A few other ways you can make exercise fun for kids are:

  • Turn a walk around the neighborhood into a game, or incorporate short races from mailbox to mailbox, for example
  • Take them to the playground or a nearby park to run around with their friends
  • Sign them up for a team sport, like soccer or baseball

One cautionary note: Girls tend to let exercise slide once they reach adolescence, according to Dr. Stephanie Walsh, medical director of child wellness at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. She tells CNN that the goal is to encourage teen girls to get their daily exercise without introducing body images. Dr. Walsh’s tip for parents? Don’t ever associate it with weight or weight loss.

“Physical activity has so many other benefits that has nothing to do with weight,” Walsh says. “When you’re talking to kids about that activity, talk to them about the benefits, better sleep, better concentration, feeling better, being stronger, increased muscle mass, all those things that are really important about it, but don’t focus on weight.”

Bottom line: Children and adolescents need 60 minutes of physical activity each day, whether they fit it in all at once or do short bursts of activity throughout the day. The goal is for them to get their heartbeat up, and to instill in them healthy habits that they’ll carry into adulthood.

For more resources on healthy living, check out this blog about reducing stress and this post about how to encourage healthy habits in your children.

5 Advocacy Wins We Accomplished Together In 2017

While 2017 was a challenging and politically divisive year, United Ways, partners and supporters stepped up to advocate for the communities we serve and managed to accomplish several policy wins to improve opportunity for all.

We would like to thank the United Way network for all the ways you advocated this year – Capitol Hill Days, letters to Congress, targeted outreach, site visits, social media and more. It made the difference. We will be calling on you to continue the fight in 2018 – particularly on tax reform and possible cuts to entitlement programs.

But, for now, we thank you for standing up and giving a voice to those we serve.

Here are just a few things we accomplished, with your help, this year:

1. Restored funding for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA):

This summer, the House Financial Services Subcommittee voted to cut the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) by 50% (from $15 million to $7.5 million) in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 appropriations bill. Fortunately, due to targeted outreach to members of Congress on the Appropriations Committee, local United Ways and supporters communicated the value of this critical program and worked with several congressional offices to restore funding to $15 million for VITA in a technical fix to the bill. The amended bill was passed by the full Appropriations Committee on Thursday, July 13th.

2. Met with nearly 300 members of Congress and sent over 9,500 letters to Capitol Hill:

This year, the United Way network met with and communicated the organization’s priorities to hundreds of members of Congress. Facing threats to the charitable deduction, budget cuts to safety net programs, and political uncertainty on health reform, United Way CEOs, staff and volunteers stormed Capitol Hill, met with members in district offices, and sent thousands of letters to Congress to fight for the health, education and financial stability of the communities we serve.

3. Fought for robust funding for Health, Education and Financial Stability:

Given the Administration’s proposed budget cuts this year and the current political environment, we expected an uphill battle to maintain funding for health, education, and financial stability programs. Fortunately, the United Way network and supporters rallied support for funding for critical community services and programs in the FY 2017 and FY 2018 appropriations bills. The FY 2017 appropriations bill, which funded the federal government through September 2017, was largely a success for United Way priorities, allocating level funding for programs such as EFSP, VITA, Head Start, CCDBG, and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program.

The FY 2018 appropriations bill is still being debated in Congress. While we are gearing up for a fight, we secured several appropriations wins this year. The United Way network surpassed our goal to send 2,018 letters to Congress this year on the FY 2018 appropriations bill, for a total of 2,330 letters overall. What’s more, United Ways sent over 600 letters to Congress in one day in advance of an important subcommittee mark-up.

4. Launched the first-ever Advocacy Week of Action:

During August Recess, the United Way network and supporters around the country participated in a social media campaign to raise awareness about United Way’s top priorities. The week-long campaign, held on August 21-25, aimed to increase congressional and public support for United Way’s priorities in health, education and financial stability. As a result of this effort, 241 unique Twitter accounts contributed to the digital Advocacy Week of Action, garnering over 1.9 million social media impressions on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. In addition, 50 United Way CEOs in the most influential congressional districts participated in a special policy call to strategize about communicating with their members of Congress during the August Recess.

5. Protected critical health programs from funding cuts and structural changes:

Through call-in days, action alerts, sign-on letters and digital advocacy campaigns, the United Way Health Advocacy Cohort coordinated grasstops and grassroots advocacy in support of the network’s health priorities. The Cohort now has over 95 local and state United Ways actively engaged in health policy-advocacy efforts. Despite attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, United Ways successfully advocated to ensure that these attempts did not result in a reduction of coverage for working Americans. In addition, United Ways worked to protect Medicaid from structural changes that could potentially have devastating consequences for state budgets, and healthcare coverage, and access for vulnerable populations.

 

By Sarah Yergeau

The CHIP Program Is Beloved. Why Is Its Funding in Danger?

Alexander Gardner, 7, gets a check up at a clinic run by the Nemours Children’s Health System in Wilmington. His mother, Laquita Gardner, pays $25 a month for her sons’ CHIP coverage, with no deductible or co-payments. CreditMark Makela for The New York Times

WILMINGTON, Del. — Laquita Gardner, a sales manager at a furniture rental store here, was happy to get a raise recently except for one problem. It lifted her income just enough to disqualify her and her two young sons from Medicaid, the free health insurance program for the poor.

She was relieved to find another option was available for the boys: the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, that covers nearly nine million children whose parents earn too much for Medicaid, but not enough to afford other coverage.

But CHIP, a program that has had unusually strong bipartisan support since it was created in 1997, is now in limbo — an unexpected victim of the partisan rancor that has stymied legislative action in Washington this year. Its federal funds ran out on Sept. 30, and Congress has not agreed on a plan to renew the roughly $14 billion a year it spends on the program.

“I’m kind of shocked, because this is something for kids,” Ms. Gardner said Thursday as her 7-year-old, Alexander, braced for a flu shot at a bright, busy neighborhood clinic run by the Nemours Children’s Health System. Ms. Gardner pays $25 a month for her sons’ CHIP coverage, with no deductible or co-payments.

Congressional leaders may provide some temporary relief to a handful of states that expect to exhaust their CHIP funds before the end of this year. It would be tucked into a short-term spending bill intended to avert a government shutdown after Friday. Lawmakers from both parties hope to provide more money for CHIP in a separate, longer-term deal on federal spending. But Republicans will almost surely need Democratic votes to pass such legislation, and the antagonism between President Trump and Democrats in Congress is so great that no one can be sure of the outcome.

Laquita Gardner, 29, relies on CHIP for coverage for her two sons. “I’m kind of shocked, because this is something for kids,” she said of its potential defunding. CreditMark Makela for The New York Times

The uncertainty has been unsettling to parents, pediatricians and state officials around the country. States are weighing whether to freeze enrollment in CHIP, shut down their programs or find money from other sources. Last week Colorado sent letters to CHIP families, advising them to start researching private health insurance options because there was “no guarantee” that Congress would continue the program. Texas has drawn up a detailed “termination timeline” under which the state could begin mailing insurance cancellation notices on Dec. 22, three days before Christmas.

Here in Delaware, health officials anticipate running out of money for CHIP at the end of January if Congress does not act.

“I’ve been around a while and I’ve never seen a program that is this popular, and that goes across the aisle,” said Stephen Groff, director of the state’s Division of Medicaid and Medical Assistance. “To be having this discussion, that we may be in a funding crisis, is beyond belief.”

Members of both parties in the House and the Senate agree that Congress should provide money for CHIP for five years, through 2022. But they disagree over how to pay for it.

In early November, the House passed a bill to extend the CHIP program. But most Democrats voted against it because the legislation would have cut funds for other public health programs and ended insurance coverage for several hundred thousand people who had failed to pay their share of premiums for insurance purchased under the Affordable Care Act.

Dr. Jonathan Miller, chief of the Division of General Pediatrics at the Nemours Children’s Health System, attends to a checkup with Aiden Geary, 10. CreditMark Makela for The New York Times

In the Senate, senior members of the Finance Committee say they have been making progress toward a bipartisan deal on CHIP, but they have been preoccupied for several weeks with their tax bill. The committee approved a five-year extension of funding for the program in early October, but did not specify a way to pay for the measure.

As Congress dithered, Minnesota received an emergency infusion of federal funds to continue CHIP for October and November, but is expected to be the first state to run out of federal money for the program. Emily Piper, the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services, said the state would use its own funds to fill the gap temporarily.

“I don’t think Washington is working the way anyone in the country expects it to work right now,” she said. “A dysfunctional Washington has real consequences for people.”

Oregon, which expects to exhaust its federal CHIP funds this month, will also use state funds to continue coverage, said Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat. “As Congress rebuffs its responsibilities, it is up to us, Oregonians, to stand up for our children,” she said.

Colorado was the first state to send warning letters to families with CHIP coverage. “We felt it was important that folks covered by CHIP understand what’s happening,” said Marc Williams, a spokesman for the state Department of Health Care Policy and Financing.

In Texas, more than 450,000 children could lose CHIP coverage on Feb. 1 unless the state can obtain $90 million. Even if it comes through, supporters of the program worry about the effect of cancellation warnings.

The Nemours Children’s Health System treats 15,000 children with CHIP coverage each year. “It provides specialized care for children that’s more comprehensive than a lot of private coverage,” Dr. Miller said, “which is really designed with adults in mind.” CreditMark Makela for The New York Times

“It gets very, very complicated once the state sends those letters out and starts walking down that road,” said Laura Guerra-Cardus, deputy director of the Children’s Defense Fund-Texas. “It can really affect trust in the program. So many families still don’t realize this is coming, and the few I’ve informed, they go immediately into a state of alarm.”

Representative Greg Walden, Republican of Oregon and the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which is responsible for the program, said last week that “we need to get CHIP done” because “states are in a real mess right now.”

Democrats said Congress should have provided money for CHIP months ago, but that Republicans had placed a higher priority on dismantling the Affordable Care Act and cutting taxes.

“Because Congress failed to do its job — a bunch of elected officials who have insurance paid by taxpayers failed to do their job — children here in America are about to be kicked off of their health insurance,” said Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio.

Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah and the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, insisted: “We’re going to get CHIP through. There is no question about that.”

Mr. Hatch led efforts to create the program in collaboration with Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, in 1997. “Nobody believes in the CHIP program more than I,” Mr. Hatch said on the Senate floor last week. “I invented it.”

Photo

Olivia Carrow said three of her children were newly uninsured and she had heard they might qualify for CHIP. They had insurance through Ms. Carrow’s job as a nurse but lost it after she cut back her hours this fall. Her two-year-old, William, qualifies for Medicaid because of a serious condition that causes his trachea to collapse.CreditMark Makela for The New York Times

Doctors at the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, here in Wilmington, were continuing to see CHIP patients last week at the flagship of a system that treats 15,000 children with CHIP coverage each year. Dr. Jonathan Miller, chief of the system’s Division of General Pediatrics, said many receive therapy for developmental delays and treatment for chronic conditions like asthma and obesity.

“It provides specialized care for children that’s more comprehensive than a lot of private coverage,” he said, “which is really designed with adults in mind.”

Research has also found CHIP increasingly helps people whose employer-provided insurance is too expensive for their entire family. Ariel Haughton, a mother of two in Pittsburgh, said it would cost more than $100 more a month to put her two children on the plan her husband gets through his job as an apprentice plumber, which also requires them to pay a high deductible before the coverage kicks in. Without CHIP, Ms. Haughton said, she might have delayed visiting the pediatrician this summer when her daughter had a fever and rash that turned out to be Lyme disease.

“It makes it so much easier for me to actually take good care of my children,” said Ms. Haughton. “We’ve had a rocky last few years, but at least I can take them to the doctor without having to be like, ‘Their fever isn’t 105 so I guess I’d better skip it.’”

Olivia Carrow, who had brought her 2-year-old to the children’s hospital here to test for an infection, said her other three children were newly uninsured and she had heard they might qualify for CHIP. The 2-year-old, William, qualifies for Medicaid because of a serious condition that causes his trachea to collapse.

The rest of the family had insurance through Ms. Carrow’s job as a nurse, but lost it after she cut back her hours this fall. She and her husband started a chicken farm this year and delayed exploring other coverage options, she said, partly because of the protracted fight in Congress over proposals to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“Not knowing how things are going to go — I feel that way about health coverage in general,” Ms. Carrow said. “It doesn’t surprise me, but it gets very sad.”

Press Release: United Way Forsyth County to Distribute Free Prescription Savings Cards to Forsyth County Residents

Winston-Salem, NC – July 19, 2017 – United Way of Forsyth County and FamilyWize Community Service Partnership, an organization focused on improving the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities, are partnering to distribute prescription cards to residents of Forsyth County.

 “No one should be forced to choose between paying for food, rent or medicine because of the high cost of prescriptions. That’s why we’ve partnered with FamilyWize to distribute free prescription savings cards to residents in Forsyth County”  said Cindy Gordineer, President and CEO of United Way of Forsyth County.

 FamilyWize cards can immediately lower the cost of medicine by an average of 42 percent or more for people without insurance or who take medications not covered by their plan. Just by presenting the FamilyWize card at their local pharmacy, customers save on the cost of their prescription medicine, no strings attached.

“So many people are struggling with the high cost of medicine and need help right now. The FamilyWize card can provide immediate savings on prescription medicines, with no paperwork or forms to fill out,” said Susan Gilmore, Executive Director of Community Engagement of FamilyWize.

 The FamilyWize prescription savings card can be used by anyone, including people without insurance and people with insurance but have high deductibles.  The FamilyWize Prescription Savings Card has unlimited use, does not require any personal information from the user and has no eligibility criteria.

 To take advantage of the savings that FamilyWize offers, consumers can print a card from FamilyWize.org, can call 1-800-222-2818 and request a card to be sent to them, or can download the free FamilyWize app. Staff members from United Way of Forsyth County will be on hand to distribute cards at The Health Fair which will be August 12th at Wentz Memorial United Church of Christ from 11-3.

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About The FamilyWize Community Partnership: FamilyWize is a community service partnership focused on improving the health and wellbeing of individuals, families and communities. Through our partnerships with United Way and more than 100,000 community organizations, government agencies, pharmacies, health systems and businesses, we are making prescription medications more affordable and more accessible.

United Way of Forsyth County brings the community and its resources together to solve problems that no one organization can address alone.

 

Press Release: United Way Statement on the Better Care Reconciliation Act

Alexandria, VA. (June 28, 2017) – United Way fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community.  As such, we work with a range of parties – including business, government and community leaders – to improve all Americans’ access to affordable, quality healthcare.

We are monitoring congressional action on the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), which, in its current form, would result in sweeping changes to our healthcare laws and impact insurance coverage for every American.  Most notably, the bill will make it more difficult for Americans to get affordable health care that allows them to lead healthy, productive lives.

Quality healthcare is critical for a child’s ability to succeed in school, and for families to remain financially self-sufficient. We will continue to work with all parties who wish to come together to develop a plan that will reduce healthcare costs while not reducing coverage for working families.

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About United Way Worldwide
United Way fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community. Supported by 2.8 million volunteers, 9.8 million donors worldwide, and more than $4.7 billion raised every year, United Way is the world’s largest privately-funded nonprofit. We’re engaged in nearly 1,800 communities across more than 40 countries and territories worldwide to create sustainable solutions to the challenges facing our communities. United Way partners include global, national and local businesses, nonprofits, government, civic and faith-based organizations, along with educators, labor leaders, health providers, senior citizens, students and more. For more information about United Way, please visit UnitedWay.org. Read our Annual Report. Follow us on Twitter: @UnitedWay and #LiveUnited.

Media Contact

Southerlyn Worsham
United Way Worldwide
703-836-7100 ext 321
southerlyn.worsham@uww.unitedway.org

Christine Sanchez
United Way Worldwide
703-836-7100 ext 564
christine.sanchez@uww.unitedway.org