To the Editor:
The article and the editorial written about me on February 17th and 18th in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel have given me a great deal to think about. I wondered how I became the subject of such criticism for advocating for my community regarding a very serious subject. All of a sudden, I am wrong and WPP is right. The reality is not that simple. Please feel free to fact check these facts that were not included in the articles for validity:
1. WPP created a structure for the implementation phase that was very problematic for Milwaukee. There was no primary organization for accountability due to the lack of adequate funding; the funding level did not allow enough resources for an organization to effectively take on the role of being a backbone agency.
Thus the Collaborative was forced to establish a consultant relationship.
This led to a fiscal sponsor that was responsible to WPP and the consultant that should have been responsible to the Co-Chairs, but preferred to work with the fiscal sponsor. The functions of the consultant included staffing the Collaborative and also fundraising.
2. Milwaukee did not receive the funding that it needed to complete its required tasks. To assume it could complete its implementation tasks with less money than it received for planning showed a lack of program management skills.
3. In July, 2012, the staff person for Milwaukee LIHF quit suddenly after working a little more than two months, but received a $20,000 advance. However, members of the African American Task Force were put through very rigorous and sometimes insulting procedures to receive their stipends for attending the meetings.
4. In August, 2012, both current Co-Chairs of the Milwaukee LIHF resigned after meeting with WPP. There were clearly some issues. It is my understanding that WPP met with the YWCA to see if they would take over the project.
5. In September and October, 2012, the United Way convened meetings to propose using some of their BMO funds to take over LIHF. It is my understanding the United Way also met with WPP about the possibility of taking over. This was rejected by Milwaukee LIHF.
6. At the October 3, 2012 meeting, I volunteered to get members together to vet agencies that had submitted Letters of Intent for grant projects, because we were told at that meeting that we had veto power over who could submit full applications. The original team was to be the two previous Co-Chairs, the Co-Chairs of the African American Task Force and myself.
Any other members who were not applying for the funds could also participate.
We found out latter that this was not true regarding our veto power.
Applicants were told that the letters were just a formality and they would be able to submit whether they had a letter from the Milwaukee LIHF Collaborative or not. This is an example of the communication issues with WPP that were pervasive.
7. December 4, 2012, the BHCW convened a meeting and WPP representatives presented their proposal to have a consultant come to support the project. This plan was well received by the members of Milwaukee LIHF. At no time was the discussion about the consultant taking over the project.
8. January 8, 2012, the BHCW convened a meeting to identify Co-Chairs to work with the consultant. This had been on the agenda of previous meetings, including the meetings that United Way convened, but not able to get to it due to a lack of decision making and time.
I had received an email from WPP asking that we not pick our co-chairs at that time. It made sense to me and others because the consultant needed to work with the leadership of the Milwaukee LIHF.
It was not until the State LIHF meeting at noon on that day at which WPP clarified the role was consultant/convener/leader. It was stated that new Co-Chairs may have problems learning the role and moving forward with project implementation.
It was at that point that I said that I would recommend to the group at the evening meeting that I be the Interim Chair because I had been involved since the beginning of the project. I made it very clear that I was not interested in a permanent position. At the evening meeting, it was approved that I and Joyce King, one of African American Task Force Co-chairs, serve as interim chairs during the 3-6 month process.
9. The following week a letter can out from WPP saying that the project was defunded and WPP would proceed with their original plan to run Milwaukee LIHF. Unlike the other agencies, BHCW was not asked to take over the project.
10. There were clearly some concerns about community people suggesting that they would like to be a Co-Chair. There were coded comments about the “others” were not at the table.
What was meant by this is that there were fewer agencies and more people from the community. It is unfortunate because if the reverse were the case, they would have proceeded without them.
There had been a decrease in agency attendance largely because there was no staff to coordinate meeting attendance.
11. The articles gave the impression that programs had been delayed because of the issues with Milwaukee LIHF. In actuality, no implementation grants have been approved in all four cities, but they are going through the vetting process now.
As you can see, my increased involvement was only at the very end of this process. My only goal was to keep Milwaukee LIHF going.
Everyone agreed that the Community Action Plan was well done.
BHCW and the African American Task Force were deeply involved in its creation as were other agencies.
However, BHCW was treated differently by WPP.
While we have the background, commitment and skills to be a backbone agency, we were not even given the chance.
Even more distressing is that I was made to be the problem, when the problem has been there way before I stepped up to help. This whole idea of a WPP consultant came after the BHCW began to convene the meetings.
The statement that the project wasn’t moving is not true.
The truth is that it was not moving the way WPP wanted it to. Now it will be? There should be no more excuses and certainly no more ability to blame me. I know that I will not be asked for my input in this current process, but I will be watching what emerges. Who knows, maybe the project will be even better. The article stated many times about babies dying.
There is nothing closer to my heart than helping to see that it doesn’t continue to happen.
The editorial said that the project should go on with or without me, but it doesn’t have that option. I will be there.
Patricia McManus, Ph.D., RN President/CEO Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin, Inc.