Volunteers needed to make FTF work

A small group of local residents, 10 in all, had the chance for interaction last week regarding First Things First, the initiative established by passage of Proposition 203 last November.

Representatives from the Arizona Early Childhood Development and Health Board gave an overview on FTF at the Mohave County Administration Building, Karen Woodhouse, deputy executive director, said the richness of discussion made the community forum a success from her perspective, despite the small turnout.

Judy Walruff, senior policy specialist, children's health, and ECDHB member Pam Powell joined Woodhouse for the 80-minute forum.

The mission of ECDHB is to increase the quality of and access to early childhood programs that will ensure a child entering kindergarten does so healthy and ready to succeed. That mission will mainly be achieved through administering regional grants tailored to specific needs and characteristics on the region and with a focus on demonstrating how improved outcomes around the six goals will be attained given the challenges of each region.

In addition to quality of and access to early childhood and development programs, other goals include increasing access to preventive health care with screenings for children through age 5, offering parental and family support and education concerning early childhood development and literacy, providing professional development and training for early childhood development and health providers, and increasing public awareness of the need for early childhood development and health.

FTF is to launch July 1, 2009. A dedicated funding stream for it has been established through the 80 cents per pack increase on cigarettes now in effect. That is expected to generate roughly $150 million per year.

Smokers undoubtedly are unhappy over the sizable tax increase they must pay to support their nicotine habits. I am not a smoker, so it does not impact on me.

Cigarettes were something like 35 cents a pack when I was a kid (don't ask me how long ago that was). They now cost close to $5 per pack.

Didn't one of the tobacco companies employ the marketing slogan, "We've come a long way, baby," way back when? Prices certainly have.

FTF teams visited Yuma, Show Low, Payson, Globe, Springerville, Sierra Vista and Parker in July prior to Kingman. They were in Prescott last Thursday and are scheduled to go to Chandler this Tuesday before wrapping up their information-gathering campaign with three stops in Maricopa County the week of Aug. 13.

Delivery systems are to be established regionally with 11 members appointed to each regional board following a public application process by those willing to serve. Regions will be determined by a number of factors that include present county boundaries, school district boundaries and zip codes, to name a few.

Information gathered from the state forums will be compiled into a needs and assessments report to be delivered Dec. 1 to the governor and state Legislature.

Regional council members are to be named next April 1 and a regional needs and assessments report submitted by Sept. 1, 2008. A budget for grants and operations is scheduled for adoption Nov. 1, 2008, with regional expenditure plans and grant proposals due for consideration during the first half of 2009 before program startup July 1.

It's clear the amount of work still to be done is enormous before a single dollar trickles down, and community members are going to have to volunteer into the partnership to make FTF work for Kingman and Mohave County.

Anyone wishing more information may visit the Web site at www.azecdh.gov.