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Delivery of Health, Human Services Faulted

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Regardless of wealth or poverty, every city in Ventura County needs to improve the delivery of health and human services to its residents, according to a study released Thursday.

The county’s first comprehensive analysis of how local governments assist residents found that services should get better, regardless of shrinking city budgets.

“We need a more effective way to allocate resources and delivery of programs,” said Kate McLean, chairwoman of the Ventura County Community Foundation, organizer of the study. “Based on the specific information we gathered we can better target resources where the needs are the greatest.”

The study evaluates child care, education, unemployment, health and other human services and finds, for instance, that even the relatively wealthy communities of the east county have many unmet needs.

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The 150-page report defines those needs fully for the first time and can be used to help lure state and federal grants, officials said. It can also be used to help public and private organizations with long-term planning.

An immediate result of the study is a recent $225,000 grant by a national AIDS foundation to the Community Foundation, McLean said.

Perhaps most importantly, the study’s statistical data can serve as a base line to help local governments measure the success or failure of new programs and to identify trends, officials said.

Using information from the U. S. Census Bureau and local governments, the study provides a breakdown of socioeconomic conditions in each of the county’s 10 cities, drawing comparisons among them.

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For instance, the study shows that the percentage of single-parent families in Oxnard--19%--is nearly twice as high as Camarillo’s. Also, the percentage of population of senior citizens ranges from 4% in Moorpark to 20% in Ojai. And the median household income is lowest in Santa Paula at $31,600 and highest in Moorpark at $60,400.

“If we’re talking about service to the elderly, we want to recognize that we may be particularly needy in one place and perhaps less so in another place,” said Pat Ebener, an independent consultant who helped design the study.

Already, information gathered from the report has identified problems in county services. McLean said the county has focused educational services for pregnant teen-agers primarily on English-speaking youths between the ages of 16 and 18.

“Survey results show that the highest percentage of pregnant teens and the ones growing in number are Spanish-speaking youth between the ages of 12 and 14,” McLean said. “We designed the wrong program for the wrong population.”

Indeed, a number of programs may need to be redirected or changed as the population shifts. The study found that well-paid, high-tech professionals have lost their jobs in recent years and been replaced by less-educated blue collar workers whose families need public services, officials said.

“We’ve seen a shift toward people with acute needs who are not the basic indigent . . . ,” Ebener said. “These are working families who are not able to make ends meet.

“With the kind of information we have, I think we may see shifting rules of eligibility for services as a result of socioeconomic changes in the population.”

The study, which will be updated annually, is also expected to provide local governments greater leverage in vying for competitive state and federal grants for everything from health care to police services, officials said.

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“We have the perception of being one of the safest counties in the country. And that actually works against us when we’re trying to go after grants, because people think Ventura County doesn’t need it,” said Beverly Viola, a United Way representative who worked on the study. “This document will prove that there are areas in this county” that have public safety needs.

Even before the new study was released, its findings were used to secure the Ventura County Community Foundation’s large grant from the National Community AIDS Partnership, a Washington-based nonprofit foundation.

The money, requiring matching funds and distributed over a three-year period, will be used to assess the scope of AIDS locally and to pay for research, education and support services, officials said.

The community foundation was one of five applicants in the country that received the grant, McClean said.

The new report took 18 months to complete and cost $37,000. It was sponsored by the Ventura County Community Foundation, Cal Lutheran University, Interface Children, United Way and the county of Ventura.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Socioeconomic Conditions of Local Cities Thousand Oaks Rank by Category A. Low educational attainment: 1 B. Single- parent family households: 3 C. Household annual incomes below $25,000: 2 D. Unemployment: 5 E. Households living in poverty: 2 F. Renter- occupied housing units: 3 G. Overcrowded housing: 1 Summary Score: 17 *

Camarillo Rank by Category A. Low educational attainment: 2 B. Single- parent family households: 1 C. Household annual incomes below $25,000: 3 D. Unemployment: 4 E. Households living in poverty: 4 F. Renter- occupied housing units: 4 G. Overcrowded housing: 2 Summary Score: 20 *

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Moorpark Rank by Category A. Low educational attainment: 4 B. Single- parent family households: 2 C. Household annual incomes below $25,000: 4 D. Unemployment: 2 E. Households living in poverty: 3 F. Renter- occupied housing units: 1 G. Overcrowded housing: 6 Summary Score: 22 *

Simi Valley Rank by Category A. Low educational attainment: 3 B. Single- parent family households: 4 C. Household annual incomes below $25,000: 1 D. Unemployment: 6 E. Households living in poverty: 1 F. Renter- occupied housing units: 2 G. Overcrowded housing: 5 Summary Score: 22 *

Ojai Rank by Category A. Low educational attainment: 5 B. Single- parent family households: 6 C. Household annual incomes below $25,000: 6 D. Unemployment: 1 E. Households living in poverty: 5 F. Renter- occupied housing units: 6 G. Overcrowded housing: 4 Summary Score: 33 *

Ventura Rank by Category A. Low educational attainment: 6 B. Single- parent family households: 5 C. Household annual incomes below $25,000: 5 D. Unemployment: 3 E. Households living in poverty: 6 F. Renter- occupied housing units: 8 G. Overcrowded housing: 3 Summary Score: 36 *

Port Hueneme Rank by Category A. Low educational attainment: 7 B. Single- parent family households: 8 C. Household annual incomes below $25,000: 9 D. Unemployment: 7 E. Households living in poverty: 7 F. Renter- occupied housing units: 10 G. Overcrowded housing: 7 Summary Score: 55 *

Fillmore Rank by Category A. Low educational attainment: 10 B. Single- parent family households: 7 C. Household annual incomes below $25,000: 8 D. Unemployment: 8 E. Households living in poverty: 10 F. Renter- occupied housing units: 5 G. Overcrowded housing: 9 Summary Score: 57 *

Santa Paula Rank by Category A. Low educational attainment: 9 B. Single- parent family households: 9 C. Household annual incomes below $25,000: 10 D. Unemployment: 10 E. Households living in poverty: 8 F. Renter- occupied housing units: 7 G. Overcrowded housing: 8 Summary Score: 61 *

Oxnard Rank by Category A. Low educational attainment: 8 B. Single- parent family households: 10 C. Household annual incomes below $25,000: 7 D. Unemployment: 9 E. Households living in poverty: 9 F. Renter- occupied housing units: 9 G. Overcrowded housing: 10 Summary Score: 62 Note: A low summary score indicates a higher socioeconomic level and fewer needs for health and human services. Source: Ventura County Community Foundation


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