C.A.R.E. network "up and running’ | SummitDaily.com

C.A.R.E. network "up and running’

SUMMIT COUNTY – After more than a year of planning, the C.A.R.E. Network of Summit County is “up and running” according to the association’s coordinator Susan Robertson.

Originally established under a state Prevention Pilots program, the network was founded to help facilitate “collaborative mechanisms” among community organizations providing services to children, youths and families.

“It’s really about anyone who’s providing services for children and families,” Roberston said.

C.A.R.E., an acronym for Community Accessing Resources Effectively, is designed to increase the efficiency of local nonprofits and other member organizations in addition to eliminating redundancies that could bog down the service delivery system. In an area like Summit County, which has a number of independent service organizations, a lack of interagency communication leads to a significant amount of confusion and overlap.

“You end up with duplicative programming and programming people don’t know about,” said Robertson. “Although we do a good job of working together, we don’t always do the best job of communicating.”

C.A.R.E. was created to fix that, she said. It plans to establish a Web site outlining the various services available throughout the county and open further avenues of cooperation for organizations. Additionally it will help advise groups as to the resources available both to them and the people they serve.

“It allows everybody to know what everybody else is doing and get information out to families youth and children about available services in the community,” said Christina Carlson, executive director of the Family Intercultural Resource Center and a member of the C.A.R.E. advisory board. “It’s pretty amazing in getting so many players to the table and getting everybody to agree on common goals.”

Early in the planning process, C.A.R.E. ran into problems. With the state facing dramatic budget constraints, the organization’s funding was among the first affected in the initial round of cuts. As the initial grant money dried up, it was able to secure an additional $20,000 through various fundraising efforts. However, with an annual budget of $40,000 it currently has enough money to continue operating only through December.

To alleviate the problem, the organization has begun seeking additional grants, primarily from private foundations such as the Robert Wood Johnson and Caring for Colorado Foundations. It receives part of its funding from the membership fees of participating organizations; however, these are far from sufficient to cover the total costs.

“The dollar is really tighter than it has ever been for human services,” Robertson said.

She noted that the C.A.R.E. Network was designed to help “provide a similar or even higher level of service for less money.”

To that end, Robertson has made presentations to town councils across the county and received pledges of support from each. At a recent Dillon Town Council meeting, members were quick to grant the $500 requested fee.

However, Town Manager Jack Benson expressed concerns that the organization may simply be adding another layer of bureaucracy to an already overburdened system.

Robertson maintains the opposite is true.

“The organizations providing services are kind of confused about what role they should be playing,” she said. “Yes, we are creating another layer, but we’re trying to make everything else more efficient.”

The network would help streamline the process of providing community services and consolidate certain functions in a sharing effort designed to cut costs, she said. Creating this layer would allow “other layers to fall out.”

“I think it will reduce (bureaucracy),” said Carlson. “There will just be (fewer) boards, less meetings. There will be one place people can go for information.”

Though quick to point out that the organization was not designed to consolidate county service programs into one “mega-nonprofit,” Robertson said organizing an overall advisory organization would also prove beneficial in terms of securing and distributing additional grants, especially should they come in block form.

Still, she continued, the idea was new, and C.A.R.E. continues to evolve.

“It’s a fairly innovative idea,” she said. “We’re going to figure it out as we go along.”

Aidan Leonard can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or aleonard@summmitdaily.com.

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