Our Mission: Reaching individuals, transforming families, and elevating the community one life at a time by showing love and building character.
Since 2007, Higher Ground has been dedicated to improving the lives of children and their families in the Tucson community, empowering them to overcome the challenges imposed by poverty and trauma, helping them to reach their personal and educational goals and become successful, thriving members of our community.
Even as our organization has grown, we have not lost our relational approach, ensuring that each child is treated as an individual and knows that we growing with them and learning together. As a result, we have had seen tremendous results in the youth we serve, with improved grades, increased school attendance, reduction in recidivism, and increased self-control and grit in the over 1,500 students we worked with just last school year.
This work requires passionate, well-trained, and dedicated staff. We operate with 30 paid staff, all of whom were previous volunteers, and a regular volunteer force of approximately 50 people. Every single staff member has had more than 100 hours of training each year to ensure that they fully embrace the mission, values, and methodology of Higher Ground. It is thanks to these people that we are able to transform the lives of so many Tucson youth.
On October 1, 2018, there was a significant change in the way the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) disburses funds... which has put our mission, and that of other organizations like us, at serious risk.
For the last three years, more than 60% of our income has come from AHCCCS funding, which has allowed us to grow and serve more youth than we could have otherwise. However, on October 1 this system changed and we now have to bill through four different health insurance companies, which required that we renegotiate rates with each of them in a long, drawn-out process. As a result, we did not receive any funds for approximately 90 days. Additionally, we are losing 40% of our income due to these lower rates from insurance companies... for the same amount of services we had been providing. To date, we have only received 45% of our payment for our services, and we are projecting a total loss of more than $300,000 from this transition.
As many of our fellow organizations have been forced to layoff employees, we have fought to keep ours working and paid, because not only do we rely on our staff for the high-quality, life-changing services that we provide... but they are family to us. Of the 30 paid staff members we have, 14 have been with us for the last 6 to 11 years. Despite the quality of work our staff provides, the majority of us are paid minimal salaries. Compared to market value, all of us are making at least 25% less than the position, experience, and qualifications would demand.
However, we recently had to furlough many of our employees for a few days to be able to continue services. As this situation continues to unfold, we are now at risk of either massive layoffs... or shutting down.
We are asking for $150,000 to help us cover payroll for the next 5 months, as it is not certain when this delay in health insurance payouts will continue.
We have already been working hard to diversify our funding sources and ensure that, during our next fiscal year (July 2019 - June 2021), we are no longer dependent on behavioral health funds. Based on the contracts and grants we have secured, we are projecting that behavioral health funds will only account for 30% or less of our total income beginning in July.
Until then, we need your help to continue operating as we have been, without having to lose any of our committed and passionate staff. We have exhausted our reserves and every other recourse, and we now rely on the generosity of the community and private donors to survive this storm.