Building Healthier Communities Through Social Enterprise

    Posted 04/17/2013

    According to research from Gallup, the United States is spending $2.5 trillion in health care and this is predicted to grow at 6 percent over the next 10 years.   The Center for Disease Control reports that of this $2.5 trillion, more than 75 percent of the total health care spending is on people with chronic conditions. These chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity are preventable and if properly contained, can drive the community cost of treatment down. It is more important now than ever to determine how to control these costs, and businesses have a huge role to play in this.  

    The true power of a job is to give people purpose. Keeping people employed not only increases their quality of life but ensures their health and wellbeing. In his book “Wellbeing,” Tom Rath, author of “Strengthsfinder 2.0,” uses research from Gallup and “The Coming Jobs War” to show that the five components of wellbeing are not all created equal.  While social, community, financial, and physical wellbeing play a vital role in one's happiness, career wellbeing has twice as much impact, Rath concludes.
    Gallup’s research shows that those who are actively disengaged in their career are nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression and other health issues. According to researchers: “These results suggest one possible mechanism through which our workplace experiences directly influence our physical health. Boosting your career wellbeing might one of the most important priorities to consider for maintaining good health over the years.”
    Social Enterprise businesses subscribe to an innovative philosophy that develops and eventually scales promising and transformative community-based approaches that solve critical social problems. By merging social mission with competitive business strategies these businesses are achieving social change by mixing mission with margin. One of the major contributions that this new sector has made is in the health care arena.
    Research tells us that about 5 percent of the population is responsible for about 49 percent of healthcare spending. Social enterprise businesses serve about 95 percent of that 5 percent, so by training and employing the disenfranchised and at-risk populations, they are significantly reducing expense. When these businesses give a job to a veteran, an at-risk youth or an individual with a mental illness, these populations are at less risk for suicide, mental health crises, and unnecessary emergency room visits. And perhaps the most important piece that impacts all of these factors is reduced unemployment. Many lose hope without the purpose of a job or career and must utilize community resources that are often expensive for taxpayers.
    According to Michael Allen, vice president of AspenPointe Health Network, Colorado Springs has the busiest emergency rooms in the state for unnecessary reasons. And in the Pikes Peak region, the average cost of an emergency room visit for people with Medicaid is $472 while the average cost of a primary care visit is between $128 and $190.   “This may not seem like a big difference, but we have many people going to the emergency department 20, 30, even 50 times each year. It adds up,” Allen says.  
    When looking at health from a business standpoint, we see that the numbers indicate only one thing—prevention is worth its weight in gold. Increasing purpose, self-sustainability, and confidence leads everyone to live a happier and thus “healthier” life. 
    By leveraging the power of employment, businesses can provide solutions to our community in a productive and healthy manner, thus alleviating strain on resources and improving the health of both individuals and communities.
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    Since 1875...

    AspenPointe has empowered clients, enriched lives and embraced purpose through behavioral health services, counseling services, career services, substance abuse treatment, employment, education, housing, jail diversion/reintegration and care management.

    One of the largest nonprofits in Colorado Springs, AspenPointe traces its roots back to 1875 when we were called the Springs Relief Society. That organization, which delivered coal, lumber and clothing to the needy, was the genesis of what today is a comprehensive and integrated system of care that addresses the overall wellness of each client whether they need behavioral health services, counseling services or career services.

    We have 12 organizations that serve more than 30,000 individuals and families each year through behavioral health services, counseling services, career services, education, housing, jail diversion/reintegration, telephonic wellness and care management.

    We collaborate with clergy, educators, employers, other health and human service agencies, the legal/criminal justice system, other behavioral health providers, insurers, and many other organizations to leverage our collective resources in order to better our communities and the lives of its residents.

    We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit funded largely by Medicaid, state and federal grants, local government contracts, and generous donations.

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