Utah may be a pretty, great state, but a large portion of the population is in dire need of health and community services, the president of the United Way said Tuesday.
Charles Johnson updated members of the Salt Lake Rotary Club about the United Way's accomplishments and encouraged them to continue supporting its programs."The corporations in this community earn their profits from this community. It is their responsibility to return a portion of it to that community. The United Way is not formed, the United Way is you. It's volunteers that comprise the board and raise money. Our mission is to increase the organized capacity for people to care about one another."
Johnson said the United Way should not be considered a single charity organization. "We have more than 115 different programs. We cover the breadth of human need from birth to death."
Although the United Way has been successful in its endeavors, Johnson warned that it still has a long way to go.
He said vital services and programs for the elderly such as dentures, glasses, day care and suicide prevention programs are extremely scarce in Utah, as are programs to help stop youth drug and alcohol abuse.
"In Utah, substance abuse of teens 18 to 25 is higher than the national average. Surveys indicate that by the time children reach the sixth grade, 10 percent of them will already have had their first drink," he said.
Johnson said the percentage increases as children grow older. By the time they're in the 10th grade, it's 75 percent. Abuse of substances like cocaine, heroine and LSD is also higher than the national average, he said.
Reliable and inexpensive health care is also scarce in Utah, Johnson said. He estimated that 10 to 15 percent of all children are born with a serious health problem.
"We need to build and coordinate our family center services. We need a strong, private, non-profit community health service," Johnson said. "We can either be part of the solution or part of the problem. Utah is a pretty, great state. We need to keep it this way."