By: Marcus J. Hopkins
January 31st, 2024
2024 is well underway, so I wanted to provide insight into what the Appalachian Learning Initiative (APPLI, pronounced like "apply") has planned for the year.
Social Services in Appalachia
Following last year's expansion of APPLI's research into public health and the publication of our first conference paper, we have begun further expanding to include information about access to, eligibility for, and utilization of #SocialServices across the #Appalachian Region.
So, what do we mean when we talk about social services?
Specifically, we're talking about social #SafetyNet programs designed to provide state and federal assistance to financially eligible persons, including #Medicaid, #Medicare, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or #SNAP, programs originating from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, including the #Section8 housing voucher program and the Housing Opportunities for Persons With HIV/AIDS, or #HOPWA, public transportation, and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or #LIHEAP.
These programs represent significant opportunities for people living in #Appalachia to address many of the #SocialDeterminantsOfHealth, or #SDOH, that impact both health and educational outcomes. As we indicated in our October research, students, both adolescent and adult, consistently have worse educational outcomes when they are worried about keeping a roof over their heads, where they will find their next meal, or whether or not they can afford their medications.
In January, APPLI released five new infographics related to living conditions in the state of #Alabama, which will become part of a greater push to expand our website and to bring attention to the barriers and facilitators faced by Appalachians across the region.
We will also work to gather personal stories on how access to—or the inability to access—social services programs impacts the lives of people living in Appalachia. Telling these stories will hopefully help to improve the lives and circumstances of Appalachians by shaping public policy and legislation.
Appalachian Advocacy Toolkits
In addition to our work in the social services sector, APPLI has been working diligently to gather up-to-date information for each of Appalachia's 13 states, 423 counties, and 8 independent Virginia cities. This includes gathering contact information about state and county elected and appointed officials and creating easy-to-use guides that will allow residents and advocates to learn who represents them in state and federal legislatures, on which committees they serve, and which administrative officials oversee education and healthcare issues in their counties.
Creating these #Advocacy #Toolkits is a time-intensive process that includes hundreds of hours of research, resource gathering, fact-checking, and graphic design. Additionally, with 2024 being an election year, we know that the names and faces of legislators and administrators are about to change. With that in mind, we are laying the initial groundwork by identifying the current representatives, delegates, and administrative officials and building the underlying architecture that will support these toolkits.
We hope to launch the first toolkits at the end of 2024 or the beginning of 2025, depending on when committee assignments are determined at both the state and federal levels.
Appalachian Adult Education Directory - 2024 Edition
In 2023, we launched the Appalachian Adult Education Directory. This directory provides information about the providers of Adult Basic Education, or #ABE, General Education Development, or #GED, preparation and testing, #FamilyLiteracy, and other educational services across the region.
Gathering these resources requires dozens of hours of information gathering and outreach to providers. This process is ongoing, and we will work to confirm and expand the directory in 2024.
If you are aware of any organizations or academic institutions that provide services, we ask that you help us to grow our directory by sharing our Appalachian Adult Education Providers Survey with them.
2024 is going to be a busy year! We have a lot of great things in the pipeline, and we look forward to growing our reach throughout the year.
As with every small nonprofit, APPLI relies upon individual donations. We humbly ask that you help us to continue our research, reporting, and advocacy efforts by making a donation. You can do so on our Donate page. Any amount helps!