In 2020, various entities in Bastrop County banded together to discuss what the community truly needed to thrive for years to come. From an initial list of 40 items, the group zeroed in on one central focus: economic stability. The group recognized the vital connection between income, health and well-being.

With a clear mission to address economic stability as a social determinant of health, the Bastrop County Accountable Communities for Health (BCACH) initiative was born as a part of the nonprofit organization Bastrop County Cares.

“We want people to have access to jobs that provide a living wage, health insurance, health literacy, financial literacy— anything that will move them forward out of being in a place where they weren’t economically stable,” said Dr. Patricia A. Alford, Director of BCACH.

Meeting the need

BCACH is constantly reviewing data, and the need for improving economic stability is quite evident. According to United for ALICE data, over 50% of people living in some Bastrop County census tracts are making less than 200% of the poverty level—meaning that a substantial number of individuals and families are unable to meet basic needs such as housing, child care, food, health care and transportation.

According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Living Wage Calculator for Bastrop County, a single parent household with three children needs to earn over $120,000 before taxes to achieve a livable wage—and in a two parent household with three children, one working adult needs to earn over $90,000 before taxes to meet household expenses.

BCACH was created to act as the county’s hub for improvement, uniting leaders, stakeholders and residents to transform systems, structures and policies for better community health and greater equity. The focus is on building relationships, breaking down barriers and strengthening self-efficacy.

BCACH partners are working to improve economic stability by helping connect Bastrop residents with vital community resources such as job training, affordable health insurance, financial literacy coaching and benefits programs such as SNAP and WIC. BCACH is also working to improve access to these resources to better meet the needs of the community.

“I’d like people to know that the life they dreamed of is within their reach,” said Jackie May, BCACH Project Manager. “There are people and organizations in Bastrop County that can help them on that road.”

How small business owners can help

1. Employ individuals who have successfully completed BCACH programs

One way BCACH actively fosters economic development is by assisting individuals in successfully completing education and training that will prepare and qualify them for jobs that pay a living wage. Present partners for 2024-2025 offering such services can be found here.

“We don’t want to just help you get a job,” Dr. Alford said. “We want you to end up with a career—a career that offers you health insurance, a career that offers you the opportunity to put some money away for vacation, not just for emergency bills.”

BCACH asks local business owners to hire those who have completed the training programs and pay above minimum wage—a mutually beneficial arrangement that contributes not only to the well-being of the community but also enhances the business’ own success.

“I see the benefit of [businesses participating] being that they have a more proficient or trained workforce to fill their jobs,” May said. “The people who are working here are more likely to spend their dollars here. Rather than being in Austin or someplace else working, they will have more disposable income and they will be right here in Bastrop County.”

2. Be creative and offer available resources

BCACH continually seeks to broaden its resource toolkit for those in need. Business owners are encouraged to think creatively about how they can contribute, whether it’s a car dealership providing repair certificates, banks offering financial literacy education and fund matching, or grocery stores extending gift cards during times of food scarcity.

“Truly think outside the box. What can you offer your community that could support the partners that we have?” Dr. Alford said.

Amplifying voices in 2024

In 2024, BCACH will concentrate on three primary areas: community engagement, partnership identification, and developing its work plan called the portfolio of interventions. Dr. Alford said the coalition will focus on actively engaging with the Bastrop County community, collecting valuable feedback on the genuine needs of residents and disseminating information about available opportunities and resources.

“If there are people in the community that want to share their voice, we want to hear their voice,” Dr. Alford said.

In 2023, partners concentrated on providing resources; however, BCACH’s focus for 2024 will shift toward creating an alignment of partners who can offer valuable opportunities to gain needed skills and remove barriers to accessing those opportunities, as well as share data and resources.

“What is it that your organization can do to help us to move forward, to help promote some movement in what we’re doing? [It’s] no longer conversations, but literally seeing action take place where people are truly impacted by the work,” Dr. Alford said.

Get involved

BCACH is changing how a community can create conditions for health, particularly among underserved populations. By developing local solutions and fostering stronger accountability, the community can enhance the overall health of Bastrop County.

BCACH’s first partner meeting in the new year will be held on Jan. 16 from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Interested individuals and business owners seeking to partner with BCACH and or who have ideas about how to contribute their resources can reach out directly to Dr. Patricia A. Alford at [email protected].

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