1. People who are economically disadvantaged experience competing demands (i.e. food, housing and transportation) that make it difficult to pay for health services. There are inadequate resources to serve the primary and specialty health care needs of the uninsured and underinsured.
    • There are few primary health care providers available to the uninsured and those on Medicaid. Existing providers are under-funded and unable to meet the needs of the increasing number of clients.
    • There is a need to remove barriers that prevent willing physicians and dentists from volunteering their expertise.
    • A growing number of people who suffer from chronic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, cannot afford to buy medications to control their condition.
    • Immediate prescription needs are going unmet.
    • Transportation can be a serious obstacle to accessing health care for the economically disadvantaged.
  2. Health providers, and county and state agencies, have yet to develop joint strategies to address the health needs of those in poverty.
    • Funds for indigent care have been shrinking. Federal and state assistance to community health clinics has been reduced and $660,000 formerly provided through property taxes is no longer collected. Budget cuts at the state level may further reduce funding for indigent care by $2.5 million in 2006 for Athens.
    • People with no access to primary care use the emergency room for conditions that may not require emergency care.
  3. A central source of up-to-date information is lacking for health services available to the economically disadvantaged, as is communication and collaboration among service providers.
    • There are inadequate resources for people suffering with substance abuse, dental care issues and physical therapy issues.
  4. Lack of adequate prevention education and services, such as teen family planning, obesity prevention and early treatment of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, contributes to poverty in Athens.

Recurring Themes and Challenges

  1. The notion that there exists a welfare system that "pays people not to work" is a myth. Welfare reform has required that low income families with dependent children must be transitioning to employment in order to receive benefits.
    • The total number of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families cases in Clarke County has decreased by 40% over the past two years.
  2. High levels of poverty are a burden to those who live in poverty and work to undermine the economy of the entire community.
  3. Our institutions and systems have failed to develop collaborative strategies that adequately address the challenges of poverty.
    • There is a culture of poverty in Athens that passes from generation to generation.
    • There is little innovation in developing new programs, opportunities and collaborations to break the cycle of poverty.
  4. A good education is one of the major factors in helping to overcome poverty.
    • An incomplete education -- lack of high school diploma, GED, literacy in English, workforce skills, etc. -- is a serious challenge to decreasing poverty in Athens.
    • Persons who drop out of school have few job options in Athens-Clarke County.
  5. Athens has an unskilled workforce that is a barrier to economic development.
  6. There is a lack of effective coordination and collaboration among faith-based organizations, non-profits, schools, universities and government agencies.
    • There are serious problems getting information to the public about existing assistance programs.
    • There is a lack of specialized support for immigrant populations.
    • There are gaps in services.
  7. Effective strategies to address racism and class issues are lacking.
    • In Athens-Clarke County the consequences of poverty fall mostly on African Americans and, increasingly, on our growing Latino population.
    • There is a hesitancy, by all races, to have honest dialogue about the impact of race and class as they relate to poverty.
  8. There are disincentives built into various systems that make it difficult to break the poverty cycle.