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April 23, 2008

Build Your Skills, Get Others Engaged

Community Mediation offers Facilitation Training

Facilitator training prepares you to moderate group discussions, promoting dialogue that is communicative, effective, balanced, and productive.

Community Mediation held a facilitator training in January.

Facilitators moderate groups using the Study Circles model of discussion. A successfully facilitated discussion Circle:
- Achieves participation from multiple people
- Embraces diversity
- Shares knowledge, resources, power, and decision-making
- Combines dialogue and deliberation to build understanding and explore a wide range of solutions
- Connects dialogue to action, creating real change: social, political, attitudinal and personal.

Facilitator training is hands on and interactive. You will have a chance to practice and get feed back on the skills you have learned.

Community Mediation-trained facilitators have moderated forums on:
- Police-Citizen relations
- Racial tension in New Haven
- Stereotypes in faith communities
- Commercial development in residential areas
- Ex-offenders’ transitions into society
- The use of the “N-word” in schools
- Armed patrols in city neighborhoods

For more information, contact Penny Rogers, Director of Community Programs
at (203) 530-2486 or penny.rogers@community-mediation.org

Community Mediation
32 Elm Street
New Haven, CT 06510

Facilitator Training pamphlet

United Way Helps Bring Discounts on Prescription Drugs

Download the Card Now!

"Too many American families have insufficient or no prescription drug coverage at all," said Jennifer Heath, Vice President for Community Impact at United Way of Greater New Haven.

"Healthcare costs are one of the top concerns for people in our community and the FamilyWize discount prescription drug cards will help families who otherwise could not afford to buy the medicine they need.

Prescription drugs are vital to preventing and treating illness and help to avoid more costly medical problems. New Haven suffers from a high rate of poverty and an unemployment rate of 10.6%. There is a high immigrant population in New Haven and there are many uninsured individuals. Recent economic indicators reveal:

  • A 14.9% uninsured rate in New Haven compared to 6.4% in the state of Connecticut
  • 27.2% poverty rate, higher than the State of Connecticut and the U.S.
  • The median income in New Haven is $32,574, lower than the income of Bridgeport and the state of Connecticut on average.
  • In 2005, 9% of adults 18 years of age or over reported that they did not purchase needed prescriptions due to cost.
  • In 2005, 1.9 million people did not get needed prescriptions and 15 million did not get needed medical care due to cost (Health US, 2007).

Spending in the United States for prescription drugs was $ 200.7 billion in 2005, almost 5 times more than the $ 40.3 billion spent in 1990 (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2007). Prescription drug coverage has been one of the fastest growing components of health care spending, increasing in 2003 at double digit rates compared to single digit rates for hospital and physician services. Consider the following:

  • From 1994 to 2005, the number of prescriptions purchased increased 71% (from 2.1 billion to 3.6 billion).
  • The average number of retail prescriptions per capita increased from 7.9% in 1994 to 12.4% in 2006.
  • The percentage of prescription drug expense was 59% (for those under age 65) and 92% for those 65 and older.
  • Prescription drug prices increased an average of 7.5% a year from 1994 to 2006 almost triple the average annual inflation rate of 2.6%.

The US Department of Health and Human Services expects the United States prescription drug spending to increase to $497.5 billion in 2016, up from $ 200.7 billion in 2005, a 148% increase in 11 years (Health US, 2007). The annual increase is expected to rise from 5.8% in 2005 to 9.4% in 2016. Prescription drug spending as a percentage of overall health spending is projected to increase to 12% in 2016, up 2% from 2005 (Health US, 2007).

The FamilyWize discount prescription drug cards will help families get the prescriptions they need at a discounted price or the pharmacy’s retail price-which ever is lower. To get a list of pharmacies, or check discounted drug prices visit www.familywize.org.

Please send a fax to (203) 789-8167or call the United Way of Greater New Haven at (203) 772-2010 if you are interested in receiving a supply of these cards. You can also visit www.familywize.org for more information or to print additional cards.

Agency offers free tax assistance

By: Maria Garriga, New Haven Register 2008-01-17

NEW HAVEN — In 2007, New Life Corp., a nonprofit agency with just five employees, helped draw $4.8 million in federal tax refunds and credits by assisting 2,060 low-income workers prepare tax returns and claim federal Earned Income Tax Credits for low-wage workers.

New Life kicked off the 2008 tax preparation season Wednesday at Centro San Jose on Grand Avenue, one of its six tax preparation sites, with several key legislators present.

“EITC is not a handout. It’s a program only for working people. EITC brings in millions to communities for people who are living on very narrow margins,” said state Sen. Martin Looney, D-New Haven, Senate majority leader and longtime champion of the EITC.

Looney announced he will again seek to get a state Earned Income Tax Credit passed this year for low-income working families. The state credit would be worth 20 percent of a recipient’s federal EITC. Looney estimated it would cost the state roughly $40 million.

New Life gives free tax preparation help to qualified filers in New Haven and West Haven. “This is one of few programs out there that have a return on the dollar. This is not about giving away money,” said New Life Executive Director Ariel Martinez.

“We need to keep the momentum going,” said John M. Picard, mayor of West Haven, where 380 tax filers received free help from New Life volunteers.

State Sen. Toni Harp, D-New Haven, co-chairwoman of the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee, said the program has been key in helping low-wage workers build assets that could lead to home ownership or educational opportunities.

Looney and Harp said Rell’s administration refused to consider the proposal last year, which contributed to delay in budget approval.

“Opponents argue that this would be a windfall for people who do not pay taxes. That’s short-sighted. Low-income workers pay sales tax, gasoline tax and property tax through their rents,” Looney said.

Last year, tax filers aided by New Life’s volunteers received $1.28 million in Earned Income Tax Credits (a payment of up to $4,700 the federal government gives to qualified low-income workers as an incentive to stay employed ) and $3.04 million in federal tax refunds.

Yet 20 percent of those who qualify for the EITC do not claim it, or may not even know of it. Additionally, many other tax filers give returns, often quite simple, to large accounting firms.

New Life recruited and trained 80 community volunteers to process returns, giving workers alternatives.

New Haven offers a separate free tax assistance program through New Haven Economic Security Coalition. In 2005, that program helped 2,484 New Haven residents claim more than $3.6 million combined in federal and state refunds.

* * *

Tax help available at these locations

NEW HAVEN — New Life Corp. will offer free tax preparation assistance for wage earners with income less than $40,000 a year.

Help will be available at: New Life, 540 Ella Grasso Blvd. and Centro San Jose, 290 Grand Ave., and the West Haven Community House at 227 Elm St., West Haven, from 6 to 8:30 p.m., Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturdays; at R’ Kids Family Center, 45 Dixwell Ave., from 6 to 8:30 p.m., Mondays and Thursdays; and the United Shoreline Federal Credit Union, 107 Whitney Ave., by appointment only Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with walk-ins Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m.

Bring W-2 forms and 1099 forms, a copy of 2006 tax return, original Social Security cards or individual taxpayer identification numbers for all family members. Those who would like their tax refunds and Earned Income Tax Credits deposited directly into bank accounts should bring account information. To request tax help or make an appointment, call New Life at 777-1319. To volunteer for training as a tax preparer, call New Life at 777-0313.

Maria Garriga can be reached at mgarriga@nhregister.com or 789-5726

Is an Earned Income Tax Cut in Your Future?

The Center on Budget Policy and Priorities has created an EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit) estimator. Try out this easy to use tool and share it with friends and colleagues.

Try the EITC Estimator Now

CBPP has launched a campaign to raise awareness and use of the Earned Income Tax Credit.

"For nearly 20 years, the Campaign, which includes community organizations, employers, social service programs and government agencies, has promoted the Earned Income Credit (EIC), the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and free tax filing assistance for low- and moderate-income workers. Each year millions of eligible workers risk missing out on these important federal tax benefits because they do not know they qualify, do not know how to claim the credits or do not know where to find free tax filing assistance. Your outreach efforts can ensure that eligible workers can receive the tax credits they’ve earned."

Download the 2007 EITC kit

View the CBPP's Money Talks website

Center on Budget Policy and Priorities

State sees strengths, weaknesses reflected in results of annual nationwide education study

State sees strengths, weaknesses reflected in results of annual nationwide education study

By: Elizabeth Benton, New Haven Regsiter Staff 2008-01-10

Connecticut schools received mixed marks in a national report released Wednesday, ranking at the bottom nationwide in improvement in student test scores and in closing the achievement gap, yet among the best in preschool enrollment and high school graduation.

The nonprofit Education Research Center released its annual “Quality Counts” report Wednesday, grading the nation’s schools on 150 indicators, including equity of school funding, teacher training and student achievement.

“Connecticut is a high performing state. Top 10 in current levels of achievement, but near the bottom in improvements over the last years. It’s dead last in the poverty gap. There are serious issues, real stagnation. And really serious issues in poverty,” said Chris Swanson, project director of Quality Counts.

Connecticut received a C-plus, a notch above the national C average, says the report, published in Education Week.

Read the full New Haven Register story at www.nhregister.com

Download the Quality Counts report

U.S. Ranks Last Among Industrialized Nations for Preventable Deaths

The U.S. places last among nineteen industrialized countries when it comes to deaths that could have been prevented by access to health care

By: Philanthropy News Digest 2008-01-09

The United States places last among nineteen industrialized countries when it comes to deaths that could have been prevented by access to timely and effective health care, a new report funded by the Commonwealth Fund finds.

Published in the latest issue of Health Affairs, the study, Measuring the Health of Nations: Updating an Earlier Analysis, finds that while other nations dramatically improved their preventable death rates between 1997-98 and 2002-03, the United States rate improved only slightly. If the United States had performed as well as France, Japan, and Australia -- the top three countries in the survey -- there would have been 101,000 fewer deaths per year by the end of the study period.

Authored by Ellen Nolte and Martin McKee of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the report, which looked specifically at deaths "amenable to health care before age 75," found that while other countries saw these types of deaths decline by an average of 16 percent, the United States experienced only a 4 percent decline. "It is difficult," Nolte and McKee noted, "to disregard the observation that the slow decline in U.S. amenable mortality has coincided with an increase in the uninsured population."

While the United States ranked fifteenth out of the nineteen countries on the "mortality amenable to health care" measure in 1997-98, it had fallen to last place by 2002-03, with 109 deaths amenable to health care for every 100,000 people, compared to 64 in France and 71 in both Japan and Australia.

"It is startling to see the United States falling even farther behind on this crucial indicator of health system performance," said Commonwealth Fund senior vice president Cathy Schoen. "By focusing on deaths amenable to health care, Nolte and McKee strip out factors such as population and lifestyle differences that are often cited in response to international comparisons showing the United States lagging in health outcomes. The fact that other countries are reducing these preventable deaths more rapidly, yet spending far less, indicates that policy, goals, and efforts to improve health systems make a difference."

"New Study: U.S. Ranks Last Among Other Industrialized Nations
on Preventable Deaths." Commonwealth Fund Press Release 1/08/08.

Read the full report

Comcast Staff Donate Over 100 Coats to Winter Wear Drive

As a result of Comcast’s state-wide coat drive in November 2007, Brad Palazzo from Comcast delivered 16 bags and 4 boxes of coats to United Way for distribution to those who need them. Because of the generosity of the Comcast employees, over 100 men, women and children in our community will be warmer this winter.

Comcast believes when we invest time and energy in the community, we all win. Get more information about Comcast here.

Brad Palazzo (r) Community Relations for Comcast
delivers the collected coats to UW

April 8, 2008

United Way in The New Haven Independent on 04/08/2008

“Civic Engagement” Oscars Awarded

Patti Scussel was one of the crowd members not receiving an award at Anthony’s Ocean View Thursday night. But she played a role in what was being celebrated — and specifically in the work of one honoree.

The event was a United Way awards dinner. This year the event focused on New Haven people and organizations helping “citizens to connect with their community.”......