Potential funding cuts could impact Kansas City's at-risk youth

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Ahvionne Caradine came to Synergy Services when life at home got too hostile.

She's in a transitional living program, where caseworkers are connecting her to medical care, housing, and planning for the future. She's the only high school senior she knows with her own apartment.

"Now, I have to get help making my own doctor's appointment, how to show up on time, how to do all of that, and that was hard because I didn't expect to have to do that," Caradine said.

Synergy Services helps at-risk, homeless, and runaway youth, like Caradine, who often share similar home-life experiences.

"It's mostly like parents just want to party and not really parent," Caradine said.

Synergy Services just received a $60,000 grant from the REACH Foundation to help more than 2,000 youth like Caradine with medical care.

"In addition to good medical, health and dental care, we really want to build resiliency so that young people have a different worldview, so they feel they can be successful," Executive Director Robin Winner said.

That grant is just a piece of the puzzle. It will help with growing client needs, but other funding resources might see a major reduction when both the Missouri and federal budgets are finalized.

Synergy gets about a million dollars a year from Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Health and Human Services (HUD).  A multi-billion dollar federal cut could trickle down and impact Synergy.

"The issue right now, this year, is the unknown," Winner said. "We just don't know where we're going to be this time next year."

Winner said Synergy operates well above 100 percent capacity, and they need funding increases rather than cuts.

While Synergy competes for three federal grants, they hope lawmakers will see the importance of what they do.

"People have historically thought it's charity, but it really isn't. It's an investment. Investing in people's well-being which will pay back in many ways," Winner said.

Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt chairs the subcommittee for HHS and Winner says she's talked to his office about potential cuts.

"He and his staff have assured us that they're really working hard to sustain those funds," Winner said.

Caradine will finish out high school at Synergy's transitional apartments. She's going to college soon and will major in social work and theater. 

"Seeing kids who have the same way as me, like this isn't okay, our backgrounds weren't okay, and to come help ourselves, and that just makes me happy that we all found a place," Caradine said.

Senator Blunt also voiced opposition to a GOP plan to slash funding for the National Institutes of Health, a health research facility that operates under HHS.

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Sarah Plake can be reached at Sarah.Plake@KSHB.com

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