Earlier this year, the Allegan County Community Foundation assumed management of the Allegan County Multi-Agency Collaborative Council (MACC) to ensure a coordinated range of essential health and human services continue.
MACC is a consortium of nonprofit, for-profit and government entities, including Perrigo, Allegan County Community Action, and the Allegan County Health Department, that provides medical care as well as information on behavioral health, food security, housing and community resources to individuals and families in Allegan County who are struggling to live healthy lives.
MACC was founded in 1987 as the Allegan County Human Service Coordinating Committee.
The United Way of Ottawa and Allegan Counties previously managed MACC, and now the Allegan County Community Foundation is the governing body that ensures MACC is aligned with broader community objectives, according to Kessie Karg, the foundation’s community impact officer. The regional United Way agency has since been absorbed into the Grand Rapids-based Heart of West Michigan United Way.
“Through its initiatives, MACC directly aids various entities committed to community betterment, and, by extension, the residents and stakeholders of Allegan County benefit from the enhanced community development and services,” Karg says.
By creating a unified approach, MACC reduces duplicated services and ensures resources are used optimally, Karg says.
This is key because it’s common for people to need help with more than one challenge. For instance, a person might be hungry but is also homeless and has an illness that’s gone untreated. That’s when the collaborative muscle of MACC comes in.
Focusing agencies’ efforts
Lisa Evans, executive director of Community Action of Allegan County, says MACC is effective because it takes an honest look at the reasons people need help and then offers practical solutions. There’s strength in numbers, and MACC has a number of health and human service agencies to help people deal with their ongoing challenges, potentially reversing the course of their lives.
Evans says forces such as income, education and the ability to own a home can affect poverty, as well as challenges that include nutrition, access to basic needs, education and housing.
“These all affect, and can determine in some ways, how people are living life, including what opportunities they have, what their choices look like,” Evans said. “If we don’t address that in a whole-family, in a community way, then we’re essentially undermining people’s hopes and opportunities and, in some cases, impacting their overall health.”
MACC utilizes the power of collective action, Karg says. Without it, health and human services in the county would be more fragmented, resulting in more inefficiencies, less collaboration and more gaps in services.
With more than 70 organizations associated with MACC, it is essential that they communicate with each other. This is key because it’s common for people to need help with more than one challenge. For instance, a person might be hungry but is also homeless and has an illness that’s gone untreated.
“Health and wellness is also about economic stability and access to education and access to quality and affordable health care,” Evans says. “All these things should work hand-in-glove and cooperatively. The MACC is this entity of collaboration among human service agencies.”
Tough problems require collaboration
Some of the issues MACC deals with don’t come with easy answers, which is yet another reason collaboration is vital. One example is housing costs. Owning a home is to be out of reach for some; rentals are also out of reach for many people.
“Private stock housing, renting an apartment at an affordable rate – that can’t be done on the income that some people live with,” says Mark A. Witte, executive director of OnPoint Caring for Allegan County. “In general, the housing stock isn’t available to support the general population.”
In response, the foundation conducted a housing needs assessment this spring and summer, resulting in a comprehensive report that included local demographic and economic analysis, county-specific housing supply analysis, and housing market conditions. The full report can be found here
From there, the foundation will sponsor several information meetings to communicate with key stakeholders to get feedback and allow a period for questions. Feedback ends Nov. 8.
The input will go into a final draft that is to be available on the foundation’s website by Jan. 1.
In phase two, the foundation will collaborate with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority and West Michigan development agencies to ensure local strategies align with regional and statewide goals.
Finally, phase three will likely include opportunities for “Impact Investing,” when donors can contribute to the Allegan County Community Foundation housing fund or open their own fund. That money would then be invested in the community to develop affordable housing through low-interest loans from the foundation.