Opinion | Letter: FIRC board endorses Ballot Measure 1A | SummitDaily.com

Opinion | Letter: FIRC board endorses Ballot Measure 1A

The Board of Directors of the Family & Intercultural Resource Center (FIRC) supports the 1A ballot measure. Summit County's working local families are struggling and they are leaving our community. Issues like lack of access to child care, the affordability of child care and access to mental health care are coming to a crisis. Voting yes on 1A will help prepare more children for school, provide more support to address Summit County's mental health crisis, improve recycling, mitigate fire danger and improve our community buildings. The 1A levy will impact the biggest challenges facing our community, challenges that are correctly put together on the ballot because they all relate to a sustainable future for our families and our community.

At FIRC, we are experts on human services, we also know that our economy is what makes our community thrive and protecting our forests and environment are essential to protecting our way of life and our families. In efforts to inform the community on our area of expertise, we want to draw special attention to the child care and mental health portions of the ballot. Summit County's workforce is leaving because many families cannot afford the payments of $1,300 a month or more for childcare, which is 15-30 percent or more of most family incomes. In addition to the cost issue, many people cannot find available spots for their child at the local childcare centers. According to a recent early childhood needs assessment, 350 children cannot access childcare because of waitlists and this is impacting their ability to enter kindergarten ready to learn, which can affect their entire future.

1A will provide preschool tuition credits for children who are four years old based on household income. This will dramatically decrease childcare costs for preschoolers. 1A will ensure that on average, families pay no more than 7-10 percent of their income on childcare, which will allow families to remain in our community. 1A will also work to expand preschool options so that every child has the opportunity to start kindergarten ready to learn.

The high cost of living is causing many people to face financial stress, which is leading to depression, substance abuse and suicide. Summit County's suicide rate is three times the national average. The mental health crisis facing Summit County cannot be solved by private donors alone. The Building Hope Mental Health initiative has made huge strides in helping people access mental health, but there are severe gaps in the availability of care that need tax dollar support.

With money from 1A, this community will be able to properly fund the substance abuse and mental health services for students and families through the school-based health services program. If passed, there will be an outpatient substance use treatment program for children and adults to help those transitioning out of rehab. There will be a reintegration program for residents returning to their community after intensive treatment and more community outreach programs to provide education about mental illness and how to access resources.

FIRC serves more than 4,300 local residents every year through its human services programs and our staff sees people struggling with childcare costs and mental health on a regular basis. If we want to help our workforce thrive in this community and help children get the best start to life, we need to provide the services that 1A can accomplish to strengthen Summit County.

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This 5-in-1 ballot allows us to make an investment in solving the issues that are reaching a crisis level in Summit County. 1A will protect our future, our way of life, our children and our community. Vote yes on 1A.

FIRC Board of Directors

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