Amid the negativity and divisiveness this election season, one issue has brought together Americans from across the country and both sides of the political aisle: the role of charitable nonprofits. In a recent report, nearly three quarters of those surveyed said they trust public charities with their checkbooks more than government and want to see expanded access to charitable giving.
In short, the study by the Independent Sector found that 74 percent of Americans trust nonprofit organizations, and want their resources to be used to see those community nonprofits thrive. But state policies and budgets have made thriving increasingly difficult.
In Connecticut, reoccurring state budget deficits and unplanned mid-year budget cuts, unfunded mandates, increased competition for resources, compounded by an increasing need for community services, threaten the well-being of more than half a million children, families, seniors and individuals with complex needs. These life-sustaining and community-enriching programs and services must continue uninterrupted.
Nonprofits provide enriching programs that improve quality of life, preserve the state’s history and cultural heritage and generate important economic activity. As Connecticut competes with other areas to attract people and businesses, robust arts, culture and heritage programs give us a low-cost advantage.
Further, nonprofits provide a wide range of community-based services, including feeding the hungry, providing respite care for families, serving victims of domestic violence, treating those with addiction, assisting people reintegrating into our communities from the criminal justice system, and more. With access to care and services in the community, individuals in need can avoid more costly services in emergency rooms, nursing homes, the streets and the criminal justice system. This is good public policy for individuals in needs of services as well as taxpayers.
In Connecticut, most, but not all, of our health and human services are delivered by nonprofits through contracts with state government.
Unlike other states, Connecticut has a parallel, or two-tiered human services delivery system in which nonprofits deliver the same services that the state does, creating redundancy, complexity and confusion in the core mission of each state agency. The government-run services are more expensive because the state has two conflicting responsibilities: (a) managing and operating State-run services and (b) regulating and overseeing contracted services with nonprofits.
From a quality perspective, a 2012 study by the Connecticut General Assembly of group homes for individuals with developmental disabilities found that nonprofits provide the same services at a lower cost with a level of care that is as good or superior to the quality of service provided by the state at a higher cost.
The need for services is only increasing. Connecticut, like other states, is facing an unprecedented opioid crisis with demand for treatment up 30 percent in the past year. There is also an increase in the need for psychiatric care for children, and a demand for outpatient services. And we still have more than 2,000 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities languishing on waiting lists to receive day and residential services. Finally, the need for wrap-around services such as housing and job training, is up as formerly incarcerated individuals are re-integrating into their communities through the Second Chance Society initiative.
Now that this contentious and polarizing campaign is over, policymakers from both sides of the aisle will need to work together to solve problems. Nonprofits are ready to be part of the solution, and the vast majority of voters trust us to do so.
Jeff Shaw is the Director of Public Policy at the CT Community Nonprofit Alliance (The Alliance)