Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Vulnerable and the Newly Vulnerable

One of the state's most respected public policy and anti-poverty advocates is Troy Hutson, the head of the state department of Social and Health Services Economic Services Division. Troy is from Guyana and is an attorney and an RN who created a a model education and jobs program with the Washington Hospital Association.

We are in a very tough situation right now where the state is making sharp and painful cuts in the safety net at the same time more and more people are falling out of the middle class and into the torn net. Troy pointed out that the inability to serve these "newly vulnerable" isn't the only problem.

Another problem is that the "existing vulnerable" populations of struggling families, mentally ill, disabled and other citizens are being displaced by a new wave of people previously ineligible for services - the "new vulnerable".

Community college classes targeted towards students struggling to move up the job ladder into higher wage jobs are now competing with better qualified students who have lost their jobs in more traditional industries. I'm told that 30% of the students entering the one year Licensed Practical Nurse Program already have Bachelor's degrees. Students trying to move up from 6 week Certified Nursing Assistant programs are being displaced by better qualified students.

New immigrants, the disabled, mentally ill and people who struggle with addiction or who are trying to recover from other misfortunes are now competing with better educated and savvier folks who recently lost their jobs.

I'm not suggesting that we caps these programs but we need to think this through. Clearly, one thing we need to do is rethink how we operate and fund our social net.

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