When Jeremy and I started Afia, one point we agreed on immediately was that the company must have a strong social conscience. While the work we do every day is rooted in this perspective, we also committed to giving 10% of our after-tax profits to charitable organizations each year. This year, our first, we put significant thought into where our donation could make the most impact. After speaking with several advisors in the social services field, we found that one of the most urgent needs for at-risk populations is housing. More than that, people need stable, affordable, safe housing with integrated services that can stop the cycle of homelessness. In Washtenaw County, the Washtenaw Housing Alliance (WHA) is working to do just that. Here’s what we learned through our conversations with the WHA:
Homelessness is more complicated than just providing a home. Some of the root causes of homelesseness are:
- Unexpected medical expenses (contributes to 54% of foreclosures*)
- Lack of affordable housing (starting in 2002, the average national rent was 105% of Social Security benefits**)
- Lack of employment opportunities to match job skills (7.6mm unemployed persons at the end of 2007***)
- Lack of services for addiction and mental illness (20-44% of homeless individuals have a mental illness or addiction disorder****)
The WHA is dedicated to ending homelessness in Washtenaw County by 2014. To reach this goal, they are:
- Focusing on prevention – mortgage foreclosure prevention, creating a centralized response system to link at-risk people with serivces
- Increasing housing opportunites – building affordable housing, securing use of existing housing, increasing emergency shelters
- Integrating housing and services – securing access to full range of for services for people with co-occurring disorders
- Reforming the system of care – developing outcome measures, integrating funding for servcies, improving information management systems
- Engaging the community – advocating on behalf of the homeless, communicating effectiveness of services, providing community education
To support this ambitious goal, Afia gave its first annual donation to the WHA. We hope that our donation, along with those of others, will go a long way in improving the lives of homeless people and their families in Washtenaw County. If you’re interested in learning more about the WHA or making a donation to support their work, please visit their website.
Chris Akerley, Afia Inc.
One of the biggest topics in the news and the presidential race today is about the failing healthcare system in the United States. At Afia we strive to have universal, integrated healthcare coverage and healthcare parity throughout the United States and the world. The burden the current U.S. healthcare system generates is enormous and Life threatening.
- 54% of all bankruptcies are directly caused by medical expenses that cannot be paid.
- The average family premium for medical “coverage” is $12,000 annually, almost the full annual earnings of minimum wage workers.
- 18,000 people per year die in the U.S. because they do not have adequate health coverage.
- 40% of our health related costs (a total of $2,400 per year per citizen) go toward “administrative overhead”.
Why is this acceptable? Why is this okay? This isn’t the kind of world I want to live in and this is NOT acceptable to me. The U.S. was ranked 1st in healthcare spending and 37th in the world in overall quality of health care. Why are we not getting the return on our investment? The reason is that when you average out numbers like “healthcare costs/year”, you lose a very important fact – millions of people are not getting any care at all (or only receiving emergency care). If you are well covered in America, the system really is one of the best in the world. If you are not covered, the system only exists when an illness is so bad that you go to the E.R. (driving costs even higher). The people without care are not happy with the system. They are the ones dying younger, with higher infant mortality rates, and are more frequently disabled. I don’t believe that only the wealthy and well-connected people should survive and get the best care.
I believe healthcare is a right and should be provided to all people. Especially children and older adults, there is no excuse for them not being covered. Universal healthcare is as simple as that – Do you believe that every person should have access to quality, preventative, integrated care or not? Period. How it gets implemented is another challenging question, but admitting we have a problem is the first step. We have to first agree that we need to cover everyone (i.e. universal care) before we can decide to do something about it. These will be challenging and exciting times and we will have to work effectively with everyone to help the people fit the technology and help the technology fit the people. My advice to you:
- Demand a better healthcare system for everyone!
- Demand that your government and your healthcare providers use their financial resources effectively and appropriately
- Seek out providers who are willing to challenge the status quo, and to make difficult changes on behalf of their patients!
Jeremy Nelson, Afia Inc.