Groups join to tackle poverty and substance abuse in Dayton |

Groups join to tackle poverty and substance abuse in Dayton

by Karel C. Ancona-Henry
Appeal Staff Writer

Members of the community met Tuesday at River of Life Church in Dayton to make a Case for Change.

The joint effort between Healthy Communities Coalition of Lyon and Storey Counties and the Lyon County Human Services Department looked at the issues of poverty and substance abuse in Dayton, and how, by working together, the community could effect worthwhile change.

“We should all be proud of our current accomplishments, but it’s not enough,” said Christy McGill, director of Healthy Communities Coalition. “We can add more programs, but programs are not the be all and end all of change. We are.”

A presentation of “Families Working Hard and Getting Left Behind,” combined statistics about and stories of Lyon County residents to illustrate several areas of concern. Among those are the gap between the cost of living and wages, an underqualified work force, substance abuse and cost of housing.According to the presentation, 60 percent of the state’s jobs pay less than what Healthy Communities considers a living wage in this state, and 10.4 percent live below the poverty level.

Using a worksheet, the group figured the cost of living for a single mother with two children in Lyon County to be around $3,450 per month. This means the mother would need to make $19 per hour after taxes to meet the basic requirements of housing, utilities, transportation, food, child care and health care.

When asked what should be cut from that kind of budget, members of the audience suggested health care, limited food, no extras and no Christmas gifts.

Being one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation has put a strain on services already at capacity, McGill said.

With budget shortfalls expected for Lyon County at an estimated $729,000 – funding for vital programs will be difficult, she said.

The group encouraged residents to contact their representatives and senators before the Thursday deadline to request funding for drug prevention and recovery.

According to data compiled by the Healthy Communities Coalition, there are few resources for children and families dealing with any crisis, including substance abuse. Lyon County Sheriff Allen Veil has estimated that 90 to 95 percent of crime in the county is directly or indirectly related to substance abuse, but there is only one rehabilitation facility for youth in the county, McGill said. She added the facility is always at capacity and has a waiting list.

“The only way we were able to get our son the help he needed was to have him arrested and put into the system,” said Denise Swanson, coordinator for Lyon County Human Services. “He was in juvenile detention 42 days before he was able to get the help he needed.”

Today, the Swansons have their son back. But it hasn’t been without its challenges.

McGill said the ripple effect of substance abuse and poverty also shows up in the long-term success or failure of children in school, with 79 percent of children in middle-class families meeting or exceeding literacy standards. She added that just 42 percent of children on free or reduced-cost lunch meet those same standards.

The presentation also looked at the difficulty senior citizens have in making ends meet. Many living on fixed incomes often have no option other than to go to a care facility because it’s otherwise impossible to cover expenses.

“It is time to think outside the box about solutions to these issues,” said Jessica Cutts, Healthy Communities Coalition coordinator. “We have the power to do a lot, but it’s going to take every person doing their part.”

The next meeting is at 6:30 p.m. March 6 at the Dayton Library. For more information, contact the Coalition at 246-7550, 170 Pike St., Dayton; or Human Services at 577-5009, 1075 Pyramid, Silver Springs.

Case for Change meetings

Dayton: first Tuesday of each month, 6 p.m. at Dayton Library

Silver Springs: last Tuesday of each month, 5:30 p.m. at Silver Stage High School

Fernley: second Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. at the Senior Center

Yerington: third Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. at the Boys & Girls Club

Silver City: to be announced

CALL: 246-7550 or 577-5009