Leaders Discuss Human Services in Allegany County

Submitted by Leadership Allegany on Fri, 01/06/2012 - 10:10

On Thursday, January 5, the Leadership Allegany class of 2012 gathered in Wellsville for their Human Services industry day. Leadership Allegany students Ryan Cool (Technology Administrator at Houghton College), Trina LaFleur (Human Resources Manager at ACCORD Corporation), and Darlene Wells (SWNY Allegany County District Director for the American Red Cross) planned and coordinated the morning. Speakers represented a wide cross-section of organizations and departments which address the needs of people in Allegany County. Commissioner of Allegany County Social Services Vicki Grant shared the structure, programs, and new initiatives of her agency. Allegany County DSS consists of three divisions – Temporary Assistance, Services, and Administrative Services – which include dozens of programs like Medicaid, child protective services, food stamps, foster care, child care services, and more. In 2011 their annual budget was $42 million. $14 million of that was the local share. Of that $14 million, $10.9 million included the local share for Medicare. The department employs 180 staff in five locations and conducts collaborations with agencies like ACCORD, Catholic Charities, and the County Attorney’s Office. New initiatives include Family Assessment Response which works with families to create a collaborative plan and work toward dismissal of the abuse report; Trauma Services Therapy which offers in-home help for kids who have experienced trauma; Medical Transport Collaborative which offers community-wide transport assistance for Medicaid recipients; and Coach Visitation which works with biological parents of children in foster care to make visitations more helpful and return children to the home quicker. Director of the Allegany County Office for the Aging Kim Toot explained the role of her department in serving Allegany County’s older adult population. As a county agency, the Dept. for the Aging is funded with federal, state, and local dollars as well as donations. Their mission is to keep people independent and provide them with choices. They mostly serve adults who are 75-years-old and older, but can serve anyone 60 and above. They also provide support for caregivers. Toot shared that 86 percent of older local adults want to stay in their homes. The role of her staff is to ensure their dignity, which means having a choice. She said they “spread the buffet of services in front of the client and they get to chose what they eat. We may know what’s best for them, but that’s not our role.” Services include the Ombudsman Program where a state-trained representative goes into nursing homes and advocates for the older adults there; information and assistance; Meals on Wheels (more than 110,000 meals were served last year); congregate luncheon centers in nine communities; non-medical in-home services; education and counseling; and housing assistance. The agency has about 350 total volunteers, 14 full-time staff, and 25-30 part-time staff. One-third of the budget is funded by the county, half by the state, half by the federal government, and 18 percent from those served. Toot closed by saying, “Let’s reinvent aging! We need to plan for the kind of services we are going to want when we are older.” Executive Director of ACCORD Corporation Charlie Kalthoff shared the history of the War on Poverty, Community Action agencies, and ACCORD Corporation in Allegany County. As a 501(c)(3) private non-profit organization, ACCORD boasts a unique board structure. One-third of the board is comprised of elected officials, one-third community representatives, and one-third low-income residents who have or could received services from the agency. Kalthoff said the organization lives on funding applications and collaborative contracts – many of which are state or federally funded. Services include business and job support, stabilization, education (such as Head Start), and housing. The original staff of seven has grown over the years to a staff of 150-155. More than 260 children are served by the Head Start program alone, which is offered in schools and on two independent campuses in Allegany County. The agency has four Access Centers where residents can come to learn about services, an active web site, and a successful newsletter. The budget is just under $8 million per year with the biggest costs being Head Start and Youth Services. Chief Executive Officer of Allegany ARC Mike Damiano shared his personal journey alongside a brother and then a son with development disabilities and his subsequent work in the field. Growing up with a brother with special needs, Damiano observed a grass-roots effort in the United States to support families. Then, Medicaid began to strongly support programs like Allegany ARC and Damiano saw explosive growth occur. Since then, groups have struggled with budget cuts and negative press surrounding state or urban institutions, but Allegany ARC continues to serve our local population well. Damiano shared the agency’s five strategic destinations for their consumers: put people first, home of choice, work and contribute to the community, relationships they want in the community, and good health. Their annual budget of $16 million funds eight residential programs, a day program, two sheltered workshops, and much more. Allegany ARC employs 350 people and serves 400 people plus their families. Fifty percent of their Board includes family members of clients. Director of the 2-1-1 Helpline Carol Wood shared a dynamic resource available to five counties in Western New York including Allegany County. The 2-1-1 Helpline includes an expansive database with information on services in our area. The information is updated annually. Local residents simply dial 2-1-1 and are connected to an operator to ask a question or share a concern. The operator will assess the need, make a referral when possible, and even advocate for the caller at times. The number is toll-free and confidential. The database includes 600 organizations. The 2-1-1 Helpline is funded by Steuben and Chemung counties, the United Way of the Southern Tier, call-center contracts, and grants. Wood and her staff are currently working on a new volunteer database after receiving funding to become the primary volunteer call center for the Southern Tier. Wood reported that the 2-1-1 Helpline took more than 30,000 calls last year averaging out to 200-300 calls per day. For more information and database search capabilities, visit www.211Helpline.org. The morning rounded out with a panel of representatives from ACCORD Corporation including Lynn Langworthy, Director of Infant & Child Services and a 2011 graduate of Leadership Allegany; Tracy Broshar, Director of Youth Services; and Belinda Knight, Associate Director of Community Operations.