Nonprofits scramble to find funding after Millennium Fund hold

Drug-prevention nonprofit funding gap.

BOISE - Some nonprofits are in financial crisis mode after money they were getting from the state was put on hold for one year.

It's money from what's called the Millennium Fund, and was being used by those nonprofits for drug prevention education. 

"We are scrambling, all eight centers are scrambling to try and fill that void," said Monica Forbes with the PEER Wellness Center.

It's a void that is usually filled by Idaho's Millennium Fund, money that comes annually as a result of the master settlement reached with tobacco companies. 

In July the Joint Millennium Fund Committee, made up of five representatives and five senators, voted to put fund allocations on hold for a year.

"To try to come to a conclusion of how we want to, and what kind of issues we want to fund going forward and what kind of programs we want to fund going forward," said Rep. Fred Wood.

Wood says he wants to make sure money is being spent efficiently and effectively, ultimately accomplishing one goal: to prevent underage tobacco and drug use.

"We were having extreme difficulty getting the appropriate feedback and a great deal of difficulty of measuring those results," Wood said.

Rep. Melissa Wintrow voted against the fund hold because of how many nonprofit programs could be impacted, putting that goal in jeopardy.

"I've heard from a few of them that are very concerned that they won't be able to continue the programs that they've had, and that will in their minds have a detriment to public health education," said Wintrow.

One of those nonprofits is the PEER Wellness Center. Forbes says they see 2,200 people come through their doors per month and believes that number is only going to increase.

"There's never been a better time, or a time where we were more needed than now with the opiate crisis," said Forbes.

In its first year, the PEER Wellness Center relied on the Millennium Fund for start-up operation costs. In its second year, Forbes says 75 percent of their budget came from the Millennium Fund and now that's money they've been working to make up.

"The effect on the community that this could have if we weren't here is very frightening to me," Forbes said.

Forbes says they always knew the Millennium Funds were temporary, but didn't expect them to be cut off so soon. Forbes says they have been in the process of applying for grants from private foundations.

"We tried to only fund those that literally, if you will, use some seed money to get projects up and started for a year, or two or three, and then they were on their own," Wood said. "Don't count on this funding as ever being permanent funding."

Wood says the budgets are set for fiscal years 2018 and 2019. Only two programs - Project Filter and tobacco prevention and cessation programs through public health departments - will continue to receive funding during this hold.

Wood says the committee will start funding again with changes in fiscal year 2020 and they will meet again early December to discus possible process changes. 

© 2017 KTVB-TV


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