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Brad Sell and Leah Gayman: Plan will help agencies serve communities

January 26, 2012|By BRAD SELL and LEAH GAYMAN

Did you know that during summer vacation, disadvantaged students lose approximately 23.6 percent of what they learned during the previous school year?

Did you know that medical emergency personnel in Maryland cannot refuse transport to a nonemergency patient, even if that means there are no more available vehicles for an emergency?

Did you know that Washington County residents would have to pay approximately $1,000 more per year in taxes if it were not for our tourism industry?

These are some of the statistics that were brought to light as a result of the Strategic Community Impact Plan, a two-year collaboration between the United Way and the Community Foundation of Washington County. This effort was an outgrowth of the Community Report Card that was developed by the Hagerstown Washington County Industrial Foundation (CHIEF).

Both of our organizations need to know and understand the needs that exist in Washington County in order to make grants that are impactful and allow us to be good stewards of the money entrusted to our organizations. In the past, the grants from our agencies have been reactive to the symptoms of the problems that exist. As a result of the SCIP process, we hope now to be proactive in trying to attack the root causes of the problems that exist in our communities.

The SCIP document is available on our website at, where you can view the 44 goals that were identified and the strategies associated with achieving each of those goals. The United Way and the Community Foundation cannot by themselves make these goals a reality. We need the support of the entire community — funders, government agencies, nonprofits, private foundations, the faith community and individual citizens. What we have provided is a tool and a road map for all of us to use as we strive to make Washington County the best place to live, work, give and play.

We will be writing this monthly column in The Herald-Mail to try to keep the SCIP process at the forefront of the community’s conscience and to report on the progress that is being made toward SCIP goals.

There are already movements on several fronts that directly relate to the SCIP process. The State of Maryland has mandated that each county health department come up with a local health improvement plan. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene wants to move forward with a national accreditation process; local health departments will become accredited and tie into federal funding. Part of this process involves forming a Health Improvement Coalition. Key documents include the coalition’s plan; a description of the coalition, e.g., the membership, focus of the coalition, etc.; and, later, an action plan with workable goals and action steps based on a needs assessment to be conducted by the Health Department, Meritus Medical Center and an outside vendor.

As a result of SCIP, many of the goals and action steps already are in place, and the action plan that will be developed will mesh with the Health and Family Safety & Security/Health & Wellbeing objectives of SCIP (eight of the 35 objectives identified by the State Health Improvement Plan were also targeted by the SCIP process). Many of the representatives on the current Health Improvement Coalition were members of SCIP focus groups.

In the coming months, we expect to be able to provide many more examples of the SCIP document being put into action in our communities. Everyone has a role in creating positive change in Washington County and we look forward to working with you to make it happen.

Brad Sell is executive director of the Community Foundation of Washington County. Leah Gayman is executive director of United Way of Washington County.

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