United Way of Northern Arizona — NE Arizona Report Lays Groundwork for Strategic Plan

| January 31, 2023

View as Webpage

Report Cites Substance Abuse, Mental Health, Childcare as Top Priorities in NE Arizona

A recently completed United Way of Northern Arizona report on building capacity to help UWNA better address critical needs in Navajo and Apache counties has identified substance abuse/mental health issues, affordable childcare and afterschool programs, and creating a skilled workforce as top priorities for the northeast region.

UWNA retained Phoenix Philanthropy Group to create the report, which was based on interviews with nonprofit leaders, elected officials, economic development directors, healthcare and education professionals, as well as current and past members of the UWNA Board of Directors.

The strategic plan being developed is similar to a process UWNA underwent several years ago in the greater Flagstaff region, which led UWNA to refocus efforts on the most critical needs in Coconino County.

The creation of this report and a strategic plan task force led by UWNA Board member Eric Scott, Human Resource and Risk Manager for Navajo County, comes at an inflection point for northeast Arizona.

Historically, an economically challenged area, the region has faced a reduction in jobs due to power plant closures, but also a dramatic increase in population due to the number of people able to work remotely in the pandemic era. This has led to a shortage of affordable housing and increased rental costs.

Some of the most pressing needs for the region include the following:

  • Substance Abuse/Mental Health Issues: Navajo County has the second highest rate for drug-related overdoses in the state and mental health issues have inundated their criminal justice system. Meanwhile, children are being exposed to drug use and alcohol as early as age 11. In one Apache County high school, more than 12 percent of the school population attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and at a junior high school, 85 of 320 students are identified as “high risk” of injury to themselves or others from trauma, drug or alcohol use, or self-injurious behavior.
  • Lack of Childcare and Afterschool Programs: Those interviewed for the study described northeast Arizona as a “childcare desert” with no licensed or certified childcare homes or centers in a 10,000-mile area. Childcare options that do exist are prohibitively expensive, leading parents to quit their jobs or leave their children locked in at home while they are at work. As children enter elementary schools, the issue continues as there are very few after-school programs. Unless children are involved in after-school sports, most come home from school to an empty house because their parents have jobs outside the community.
  • Creating a Skilled Workforce: Northland Pioneer College was cited as a “shining star” in the area, but many families in Navajo and Apache Counties do not prioritize college. Many parents of youth in high school did not attend college, making it less likely their children will attend college. Economic Development Directors in affected communities have been working diligently to advance innovation while maintaining the unique character of the area. Retaining the community’s “best and brightest” talent will require expanded opportunities for apprenticeships and workforce training to take advantage of these new opportunities.

The strategic plan, funded by a significant donation from APS, is helping UWNA create a roadmap to not only help its partners continue work in these counties, but also allow them to build capacity and sustainability for the future to address these priorities.
Once the goals of the strategic plan have been fully established, the goal is to implement a “collective impact model” – engaging a network of organizations, community members, nonprofits, and institutions that align and integrate their actions to achieve meaningful change in the community through a shared vision, measurable outcomes, and effective communication.

Click here to view the entire report, and if you would like to add your voice to this process, please contact Christine Pierce via email.

Category: Advocacy, Child Welfare, Education, Health, Programs, Resources

Comments are closed.