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HHS and the President's Faith-based and Community Initiative

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Overview: Faith-based and community organizations have a long history of providing essential services to people in need in the United States. In recognition of the unique ability that these organizations have to meet the special needs of their communities, the Bush administration has made improving funding opportunities for faith-based and community organizations a priority. Through the President's faith-based and community initiative, the administration is working to remove unnecessary barriers that may prevent these organizations from receiving federal funding, creating a "level playing field" between faith-based and community organizations and other groups that use federal funds in delivering services.

On January 29, 2001, President Bush issued an Executive Order directing the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), as well as the heads of the departments of Justice, Education, Labor, and Housing and Urban Development, to establish within each department a Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

As specified in the President's Executive Order, responsibilities of this center include:

*identifying existing barriers to the participation of faith-based and community organizations in the delivery of social services by the department;
*coordinating a comprehensive departmental effort to incorporate faith-based and other community organizations in department programs and initiatives to the greatest extent possible;
*proposing initiatives to remove barriers for participation by these organizations;
*proposing the development of programs to increase the participation of faith-based and other community organizations in federal, state and local initiatives;
*developing and coordinating departmental outreach efforts to disseminate information more effectively to faith-based and other community organizations on initiatives and opportunities; and
*reviewing the extent to which relevant programs comply with "charitable choice" provisions and promoting and ensuring compliance with "charitable choice."
HHS will also provide the President with annual reports detailing the department's efforts in fulfilling its responsibilities. The report will analyze HHS programs to determine barriers to full participation of faith-based and other community organizations, summarize the technical assistance and other information that will be available to faith-based and other organizations, and include annual performance indicators and measurable objectives for department actions.


Background: HHS has a long tradition of funding religiously-affiliated and other community-based organizations to provide a range of services and of providing technical assistance to these organizations to enable them to better serve the needs of their communities.

Funding of Faith-Based Organizations Under "Charitable Choice" Legislation

"Charitable choice" is a legislative provision designed to remove unnecessary barriers to the receipt of certain federal funds by faith-based organizations. The provision prohibits states from discriminating against religious organizations when choosing providers under certain federal grant programs, as long as the programs are implemented in a manner that is consistent with the First Amendment. While "charitable choice" is designed to improve access to federal funding for faith-based organizations, it does not establish a new funding stream dedicated to these groups.

A "charitable choice" provision was first included in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 and applied to HHS funding under the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program. A "charitable choice" provision was also added to the Community Services Block Grant program when it was reauthorized in 1998. Both programs are administered by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) with the funding provided to the states through block grants. In these programs, HHS provides the funds to the states, which in turn award funds to other local or community providers, including faith-based organizations. In 2000, the "charitable choice" provision was also added to the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Other HHS Funding to Faith-Based and Community Organizations

A number of HHS agencies and programs provide funding and technical assistance to faith-based and community organizations outside of the "charitable choice" provisions. Following are just a few of the many examples of HHS-funded activities:

*ACF funding goes to faith-based organizations through Head Start and programs for refugee resettlement, runaway and homeless youth, independent living, child care, child support enforcement and child welfare.

*ACF's Office of Child Support Enforcement has produced a video on the benefits of child support and faith-based partnerships. The video suggests ways to strengthen the role of faith-based organizations in child support collection and in the involvement of both parents in their children's lives.

*Administration on Aging funding goes to a number of faith-based organizations throughout the country to provide services such as: nutrition, senior centers, case management, in-home supportive services, hospice services, adult day centers, transportation, education and other services.

*In 1997, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry sponsored the forum Engaging Faith Communities as Partners in Improving Community Health to explore partnerships with faith-based organizations. The forum addressed topics such as separation of church and state, the influence of faith on health, and current partnerships and best practices for partnerships between federal agencies and faith-based organizations.

*CDC's Office of Minority Health funds the Congress of National Black Churches to promote a health promotion and disease prevention initiative for the African-American community that specifically addresses diseases that cause higher rates of illness and death in that community.

*The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has established the Faith Partnership Initiative designed to foster and build partnerships between the agency's federally-funded community health centers and faith-based organizations in order to increase access to quality primary and preventive health care, to reduce health disparities and to better coordinate health assets at the local level.

*HRSA also provides funds to faith-based and community organizations to support services through the "Healthy Tomorrows" program, the Healthy Start program, and an initiative to test the use of church health advocates to promote organ donation.

*HRSA has been funding the National Hispanic Religious Partnership for Community Health since fiscal year 1998. This network of Hispanic churches has created a national databank of Hispanic faith-based and community organizations that will in the future identify services, programs and resources available to address health-related needs in the Hispanic community. Details about this network and listed organizations are available at http://www.nhrpch.org.

*Under its Minority Community Health Coalition Demonstration Grant Program for HIV/AIDS, HHS' Office of Minority Health has made grants to faith-based organizations participating in the Impacto Latino Coalition Project. This project addresses the need for effective prevention programming to change community norms and increase community support for behaviors known to reduce the risk of HIV infection among Latino New Yorkers. The Latino Commission on AIDS, VIP Community Services and five churches are joining together as a coalition to address HIV/AIDS in the Latino community.

The grant program has also provided funds to the South Side HIV/AIDS Coalition in Chicago, a multi-agency group including Trinity United Church of Christ, Provident Hospital of Cook County and the Alliance for Community Empowerment, to provide culturally sensitive and responsive HIV/AIDS education and services to African-Americans.

*The Office of HIV/AIDS Policy in HHS' Office of Public Health and Science (OPHS) has partnered with gospel music artists to raise awareness of the church's unique potential to facilitate HIV prevention efforts and to promote AIDS education in the African-American community.

*OPHS' Office of Adolescent Pregnancy Programs provides grants to support health, education and social services for pregnant and parenting adolescents at the community level. The office also provides grants to support abstinence education programs aimed at young adolescents who are not sexually active. The abstinence programs are designed to delay the onset of sexual activity and reduce the incidence of teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS. The office has nine grants with faith-based organizations.

*In 2000, SAMHSA became the first HHS agency to undertake a specific faith-based initiative led by a full-time, dedicated staff coordinator. The initiative formalizes the long-term, ongoing role of both spirituality and faith-based organizations in SAMHSA's discretionary and block grant substance abuse and mental health programs.

*SAMHSA's Community Substance Abuse Prevention Partnership Program has involved more than 800 faith community partners. SAMHSA State Block Grant funds are disseminated by states to numerous faith-based organizations that engage people with or at-risk for mental and addictive disorders.

*SAMHSA's St. Louis Target Cities project funded a $55,000 faith community component in fiscal year 1995 that spanned a range of religions and denominations. The group developed and implemented a four-tier substance abuse and related issues training program for faith organizations and has resulted in a self-sustaining non-profit organization, the Committed Caring Faith Communities, that continues to assist families recovering from substance abuse.

*SAMHSA's Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness program makes grants to states to provide services to people with serious mental illness who are homeless or are at risk for homelessness. States allocate the dollars to local agencies, many of which are faith-based. Believing that partnerships with faith-based organizations are critical to the program's success, SAMHSA encourages local-funded agencies to coordinate their services with faith-based organizations serving homeless people with mental illness.

*SAMHSA's School and Community Action Grants/Youth Violence Prevention Cooperative Agreements grant programs promote community-wide efforts to prevent youth violence and substance abuse and promote healthy youth development. Faith-based organizations including Catholic Charities and the Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation are recipients of these funds.
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