Making an IMPACT in Charlottesville

May 5, 2016

More than 1000 people from 27 congregations came together Tuesday for the 10th annual Nehemiah Action Assembly hosted by IMPACT. Each year the group chooses a social issue affecting the greater Charlottesville community and devises an action plan to tackle the problem. As WMRA’s Sefe Emokpae reports, this year’s focus was on drug and alcohol abuse recovery in women and care for the elderly.

It was a full house at the annual IMPACT meeting in Charlottesville. IMPACT, which stands for Interfaith Movement Promoting Action by Congregations Together, is an organization made up of members who have made it their mission to tackle social issues in the community and seek change. Daniel Xisto is Vice-President.

DANIEL XISTO: This annual meeting is the largest public meeting in Charlottesville, it happens once a year and it’s the culmination of all of our efforts.

Throughout the year, members research a problem and seek out help from the decision makers within the community to address the issue in a specific way.

XISTO: We asked the city and county if they would help with a residential treatment facility for women because none exist and all six of them said yes.

Several members of Charlottesville City Council and the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors promised to support the allocation of $75,000 to the construction of a new treatment center for women battling alcohol and substance abuse. Liz Emrey is co-pastor of New Beginnings Christian Community and co-chair of IMPACT’s strategy team for the residential treatment center for women. She says women are often denied residential treatment and the nearest facility is more than 70 miles away.

LIZ EMREY: Often there’s not a single bed available in the entire state for women who need substance abuse treatment. And so they either commit suicide or go on drinking and drugging until they reach the end of the line, and this is of critical importance especially because this drug treatment center for women will help with their children because they can have two children under the age of five with them. We have a treatment center here for men but nothing at all for women so it’s a matter of justice not just mercy.

Emrey’s co-chair Janie Pudhorodsky says helping these women stay closer to home can only benefit the community as a whole.

JANIE PUDHORODSKY: Having the women remain in the community they’ll be able to be connected with other service. There’ll be job training services available, they’ll have transportation services available. Previously, if they wanted residential treatment thy had to go to either Lynchburg or Culpeper and that made it so much more difficult coming back into the community because they’re not connected with those things that they need to be.

In addition to the residential rehab center, IMPACT members have also made it their mission to improve the quality and cost of elder care in Charlottesville.

Vikki Bravo is on IMPACT’s elder care research committee.

VIKKI BRAVO: The supports and services available as people age in the long term are too expensive. Whether it’s services at home or in a residential setting. The cost of long term care is one and a half times the average income of people over 65 in our area.

She says caring for the elderly is not just a concern for older people.

BRAVO: It has many impacts on their families who are put in the position of having to take care of them but probably also needing to work and so they’re stuck because they don’t have a way to give adequate care to their parents. So it affects the working community it affects families of seniors, it affects all of us.

Chip Sanders is also on the elder care committee. He says although there’s no concrete plan in place right now, the goal is to get the conversation started.

CHIP SANDERS: One of the things we discovered in our research visits is that information was missing on the elderly that are able eligible but not being served or have other issues. So what we’re asking is that the agencies that specifically deal with aging issues in our community work together, coordinate their efforts, seek out the data that’s needed to define the problem and then develop a plan to approach a solution.

IMPACT leaders say the group will continue to work together to create change for people in Charlottesville and surrounding areas no matter race, gender or religion.