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Spokane Alliance addresses issues, empowers people

The Spokane Alliance will hold a county-wide assembly at 7 p.m., Monday, May 22, at the Hixson Union Building at Whitworth College to develop a strategy for dealing with escalating energy prices and for securing funding for Project Access.

They will consider a proposal to deal with reducing energy consumption by retrofitting facilities of small businesses, churches and homes through a revolving loan fund, said Tom Robinson, chair. 

That proposal, related to sustainable jobs for a sustainable future, is based on the rationale that buildings consume 36 percent of energy, so there is opportunity for energy savings in retrofitting existing buildings for energy efficiency. 

The Spokane Alliance works with Spokane city schools on sustainable construction and apprenticeships for building new education facilities.

To help Project Access develop a more secure funding base to continue to provide medical services to the approximately 44,000 uninsured people in Spokane County, the assembly will consider a proposal for local government officials and hospital executives to provide up to $250,000 per year to support the program until a permanent funding solution is in place.

This action is part of the alliance’s effort to identify ways to provide access to health care for those without coverage and to address the rising cost of health care in the area, Tom said.

The rationale is that a safety net for uninsured people will reduce rising health insurance premiums, support health care as the primary economic driver of Spokane and secure local funding for services.

Project Access has support of Spokane, Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake.  It is a physician-led community partnership of coordinated care, including 650 volunteer specialist physicians, Spokane hospitals, pharmacists and other healthcare providers.   In its first two years, it provided more than $5.5 million in medical services to more than 1,500 patients, a return on community investment of $9.75 per $1.

The Spokane Alliance is reviewing proposals for long-term funding mechanisms.

While assemblies focus on issues, a primary alliance goal is to strengthen its organizational members, said Jim Minard, who is involved in the alliance as a member of the Veradale United Church of Christ in Spokane Valley.

“It does this through one-on-one relational meetings, leadership training and ‘listening seasons’,” he said.  “In listening seasons, participants discern needs and from those, volunteer research groups identify ‘actionable issues,’ power analyses and potential alliances,” he said.  “Health care and sustainable jobs have been among the top needs identified.”

The alliance, a county-wide organization representing 30,000 residents involved in 37 member groups, strengthens civic organizations.  Member organizations include 15 churches, 16 labor organizations, four education associations and  two nonprofits—and helps their individual members become “public persons,” able to articulate needs and discern solutions.

Among issues on the alliance’s 2006 state legislative agenda were the small-business revolving loan fund for retrofits, job skills program grants, bio-fuels, mental health funding, Fair Share health insurance funding, children’s health insurance funding and restoring 10,000 slots to the Basic Health Plan.

For information, call 532-1688.