McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

Local News

June 5, 2014

‘Voice’ duo taking part in free forum

McALESTER — More than 30 local community service agencies have joined together to host the Communities of Care Party for a Cause forum from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday at Life Church, 1300 George Nigh Expressway, McAlester.

A special concert featuring Alaska and Madi, the Oklahoma female duo from the televison  series  “The Voice,” will be part of the free forum being offered as part of the statewide Communities of Care initiative.

Communities of Care rep. Stacy Williams, assistant Systems of Care director at CREOKS Behavioral Health Services for Pittsburg, Latimer and Haskell counties, said, the purpose of Party for a Cause is to raise awareness of the number of community families struggling through traumatic events. These events often weaken the family structure and end with children being taken into the foster care system, she said. Helping these families on the front end is an investment that results in stronger communities, Williams said.

“Working together, we can build stronger, healthier communities. We want our friends and neighbors to join us Friday and gain a better understanding of what community services are available and how even the smallest commitment of time and resources can help strengthen our community,” she said.

In addition to the Alaska and Madi concert, the free event will include food, prize drawings, guest speakers, information about local community services and a live performance by Oklahoma Kids. Free child care and travel stipends are available.

Community leaders Kristy Cusher of the Pittsburg County Local Service Coalition and Community Champion Terrance Roby have taken active roles in the event because they believe the entire community plays a role in the overall health, safety and wellbeing of all local children and families.

“I am part of this effort by the Communities of Care initiative because I care about the future of our children, the future of our community,” Cusher said. “I am encouraging everyone to step up and commit to adding value to the quality of life for all of us.”

Roby welcomed everyone to attend the forum and gain a better understanding of how even just five minutes of a person’s time can help build a stronger community.

“One hour, one month or one year and endless opportunities to contribute make it possible for everyone to find a way to help our friends and neighbors and to build a stronger community,” he said.

Families are the most basic building block of any community and the statistics in eastern Oklahoma indicate there are high numbers of children and families at risk for experiencing some type of stress that often leads to undesirable outcomes such as divorce, incarceration or children entering state custody. These situations add stress to the entire community and are concerning to local businesses, faith-based organizations, tribes and community partners.

Families can become fragile for many reasons. Most often these reasons include divorce, unemployment, school dropout, unintended pregnancies, homelessness, crime, incarceration, injuries and loss of life. When families are impacted, the entire community is impacted. “Communities are one living organism just like our bodies,” said Lynn Smith, Communications and Event specialist at Oklahoma Systems of Care. “If a child suffers from a broken arm, the whole body and soul is affected. When communities suffer from broken family units, we all are impacted. From a less productive workforce to increased crime and children entering the system, our communities suffer. We all need to work together to invest in our future on the front end. The time is now. Together we can create a stronger, healthier future.”

In eastern Oklahoma alone, in 2013, there were 1,498 confirmed reports of child abuse and neglect representing 2,781 children. An overwhelming 60 percent of those children were age birth to 6.

With approximately 70 percent of adults and 40 percent of youth left untreated for mental health issues and 77 percent of adults and 80 percent of youth needing help for substance abuse problems, Oklahoma communities must work together for the sake of the children and the future, Williams said.

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