Youth In Need Champions Funding for Children’s Mental Health Services
Come November there’s another important decision that Pat Holterman-Hommes is asking St. Charles County voters to make. “If approved, this measure would bring essential mental health services to an estimated 120,000 children and youth in the county,” says the Chief Executive Officer of Youth In Need, a 46-year-old nonprofit agency serving the most vulnerable youth in Eastern Missouri. YouthBridge has awarded Youth In Need a $25,000 Think Big for Kids grant to help fund a public engagement campaign that will educate community members on the impact of their past and future investments.
The ballot initiative will ask voters to approve a 1/8 cent sales tax increase, which would double the funding available for children’s behavioral health services. Holterman-Hommes says Youth In Need and then-CEO Jim Braun were instrumental in getting an 1/8 cent sales tax passed in 2005 – a “game changer” in improving the quality of life for children, youth and families in St. Charles County.
Revenue from the sales tax is dedicated to a Children’s Community Services Fund, administered by the Community & Children’s Resources Board, which partners with nonprofits (including Youth In Need) to provide free mental health and substance abuse services for about 70,000-80,000 children on an annual basis. “As a result of these services, St. Charles County has seen significant decreases in suicides, teen pregnancy, juvenile crime, high school dropout rates and more,” says Holterman-Hommes. Increasing the sales tax to 1/4 cent would enable groups to keep pace with the expanding population of St. Charles County and issues that continue to grow, such as opioid use, youth homelessness and an overwhelmed foster care system, she explains.
Holterman-Hommes says the central message of the public campaign – titled “Better Because Of You” – is that these issues affect everyone. “From attracting businesses to the area to keeping our streets safe, our community is only as strong as our young people,” she says, adding that she is hopeful about the outcome of the November vote based on a recent poll in which 70% of respondents were in favor of increasing children’s services in the county.
“I’m also very grateful to YouthBridge for continuing to support our efforts and new ideas,” says Holterman-Hommes. In 2019, YouthBridge provided the organization with funding to spearhead a regional application to become a Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project through the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development. “Unfortunately, we were not chosen,” she says, “but through the process, we were able to create a housing catalyst position focused on connecting homeless youth with the right services and to build incredible momentum and collaboration around reducing youth homelessness.”
If you are interested in learning more or participating in the ballot initiative efforts, please visit the campaign website at www.puttingkids1st.com or call (636) 542-8260.