SRA completes Needs Assessment for St. Lucie County, Florida

Editorial: United Way Study shines harsh light on problems in St. Lucie County that have lingered for too long and must be resolved

Analysis of conditions should be vital tool in setting county’s priorities, directions

By Editorial Board

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


That pretty much sums up the overall status of social, health and public safety conditions in St. Lucie County, according to a study recently released by United Way of St. Lucie County.

Perhaps the most comprehensive study of its kind ever conducted for the county, the 447-page, 2-inch-thick document filled with data, charts and analyses shows the county worse than state averages and worse than similar counties examined in Florida in nearly every case.

It must act as a call to action for county leaders and residents.

The yearlong study funded by United Way and 22 other public and private organizations demonstrates the challenges facing service organizations while focusing in on areas where needs are greatest.

The categories examined and some of the findings by the SRA Research Group of Jupiter, which conducted the study, include the following:

Family life: Challenges include the need for more and higher paying jobs, affordable housing, hunger, available and affordable child care, and public transportation. The county ranks worse than the state and peer counties studied (Lake, Manatee and Marion) in per capita income, median household income, unemployment, poverty, homeownership, and child care providers.

Child health and education: Infant and child health is one of the bright spots for St. Lucie County with generally better statistics than peer counties and the state. Problem areas include a high rate of substance abuse among middle school students, high rate of school absenteeism, low rates for reading proficiency for third- and 10th-grade students, and low rates of math proficiency for 10th-grade students.

Adult health and functioning: The county does pretty well statistically in regard to chronic disease rates. Challenges include lack of health insurance and access to affordable health and dental care, obesity, HIV/AIDS, climbing death rates, and mental health issues.

Elderly and disabled adults: A quarter of all people 65 and over in St. Lucie County are “medically underserved.” Challenges include older adults who are lonely, those who are raising grandchildren, lack of communication about services available, and pressure on service providers as the population grows.

Safety and security: Overall crime rates are generally better than the state average and peer counties. Problems include a high crime rate in Fort Pierce, crime and violence in high schools, bullying, and a high rate of incarceration.

This study follows a similar one conducted in 2007. There has been some improvement, such as in child health, chronic diseases and crime rates, but many difficulties remain.

This study must not sit on a shelf and be forgotten. There is far too much valuable information not to be used in setting priorities and directions, then taking action.

© 2013 Scripps Newspaper Group — Online

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