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Agency looks at mission, services

Assessment includes funding, other challenges

While Catholic Charities of Omaha honors the past in celebrating 90 years of service this year, it also is looking to the future.

And that is prompting the charitable arm of the Archdiocese of Omaha to assess its services and make some changes in light of insufficient government funding and increasing regulations.

Primary objectives include reducing dependence on government funding and collaborating closely with the archdiocese, said John Griffith, executive director.

And one goal is transferring to other providers the agency’s residential substance abuse and mental health services in Omaha and Columbus.

Those services include treatment for adults with 93 beds at the Omaha Campus of Hope and 16 beds in Columbus. Adolescents are served with 16 beds in Catholic Charities’ Journeys program in Omaha.

Catholic Charities is working with state officials to find other providers for the residential services and continued job opportunities for employees impacted by the move, Griffith said.

"We will work hard toward a smooth transition," he said.

In addition to funding challenges, government regulations are limiting the ability of faith-based organizations such as Catholic Charities to provide services consistent with their beliefs, said Deacon Tim McNeil, chancellor.

And regulations impacting how services are delivered and reimbursements are paid, credentialing of therapists, and other aspects of providing care have become more burdensome and increase costs, Griffith said.

But challenges also bring hope – for a renewed sense of mission and closer collaboration with parishes and the goals of the archdiocese and the wider church, he said.

Catholic Charities will continue to serve the poor and people of all faiths – but hopes to do so while not relying on government funding, and more closely aligning its operations and services to address needs in the archdiocese and its parishes, Griffith said.

"What is our mission?" he said. "It’s to bring Christ to those in need through the works of mercy."

Deacon McNeil said part of the collaboration with the archdiocese could take shape as Archbishop George J. Lucas this fall shares a pastoral plan that is expected to include three priorities with clear, actionable goals. Many people attending listening sessions across the archdiocese suggested works of mercy should be included in the vision plan, he said.

Catholic Charities officials began discussing its mission and services several months ago in conversations about the challenges with Archbishop Lucas, who is chairman of Catholic Charities’ Board of Directors, and the rest of the 22-member board.

And an 18-member ad hoc advisory committee of legal, health and business experts, current and former board members was formed in May to discuss a transition plan and opportunities for services, Griffith said.

Board members agreed the most immediate challenge is residential services, Griffith said. Increases in state and federal funding, as well as private donations, have not kept pace with costs, leading to a deficit last year that is expected to grow, he said.

"With small increases in reimbursement rates over the past several years for residential services, it has become increasingly difficult to cover costs," he said.

But Catholic Charities is not going away, Griffith said. Even as funding and service changes are made or explored, it will continue to provide Christ-centered care for people in need.

"Our mission and our ministry is still going to be there," he said.

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