November 27, 2014

Elyria
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Grant’s premature end will curtail Lorain initiative

LORAIN — The Lorain PRIDE Initiative is ending early, but supporters say its impact will be lasting.

The federal taxpayer grant program, designed to combat the effects of joblessness, partnered with groups such as Lorain County Alcohol & Drug Abuse services, Lorain County Health and Dentistry, the Lorain County Urban League, the Nord Center and the Urban Minority Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Outreach Programs of Lorain. Parts of the initiative will be continued by those groups.

“We’re leaving a legacy,” said Nancy Toth, initiative awareness coordinator and a Lorain health educator.

Hit hard by the Great Recession that increased Lorain’s unemployment rate above the national average, the city was awarded the grant in 2010 by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. The administration requested a $3.1 billion budget for this year, about $195 million less than last year, and the PRIDE Initiative has felt the effect.

Lorain was supposed to receive $1.4 million annually for four years. The grant’s elimination after two years was part of federal budget cuts designed to reduce the nation’s approximately $1 trillion deficit and $16.4 trillion national debt. Initiative administrators were able to fund the program for a third year with unspent money, but it runs out Sept. 30.

PRIDE, which stands for Partners Realistically Integrating Durable Empowerment, provides services including free dental and medical care to those without health insurance, as well as job training, drug and mental health treatment, couples therapy and smoking cessation programs. Some 2,600 people used the services, according to Brenda Taylor-Hines, initiative director.

The grant was awarded because of the city’s high unemployment, which was about 12 percent between 2008 and 2010. Besides economic insecurity, Toth said joblessness creates or exacerbates myriad problems, including depression, drug abuse and domestic violence.

“It was a community resilience and recovery initiative,” she said. “We were gearing all of our programs towards those things that affect people when they are affected by job loss.”

Screening sites around Lorain alerted residents about programs of which they otherwise might not have known. The most popular provided vouchers for free dental and medical care for the needy at Lorain County Health & Dentistry. The assistance will end when the grant expires.

Taylor-Hines and Toth said the Jobs Workshop was the second most popular program. Some participants may be applying for a job for the first time or have been out of the job market for a long time.

About 40 percent of participants in the 25-hour-per-week program find employment, Taylor-Hines said. Services include job interview rehearsals, resume writing, finding job leads and providing new clothes for job interviews.

Components of the workshop will be used by Lorain Schools Credit Recovery Academy, a school designed to graduate students at risk of dropping out. Michael Ferrer, Urban League program director, said his group will help the initiative with the workshop through September but doesn’t have enough staff to run it alone.

Ferrer said he and a 30-hour-per-week staffer are the only people his group has to provide job training, so the Urban League is looking to partner with other groups to run the workshop.

“We do believe in its value, but times are not prosperous,” he said.

Besides the program losses, the cut will end employment for Taylor-Hines, Toth, two full-time staffers and one part-timer. Mayor Chase Ritenauer wrote in an email Wednesday that the jobs will not be retained unless grant money is obtained or through a merger of the Elyria and Lorain health departments.

While unemployment has dropped in both Lorain and nationally since the grant was awarded, Taylor-Hines and Toth said residents still need help and cutting the grant early was shortsighted, but they are making the best of it.

“We’re going to be missed, but we’re going to make sure that people know where to go to continue to receive these programs and services,” Taylor Hines said. “In that sense, it’s been a good thing.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.