John Adams passed the Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen in 1798, marking the first federal public health law. Over the next 200 plus years, many laws and much legislation would be passed cementing the government’s role in ensuring the health and safety of people in America. Since the 1950’s, Pierce County and its incorporated cities have continued to grow, through hard times and good times. As the Director of Human Services, I take great pride in the work that my department does every day to provide essential assistance to vulnerable people.
Our department is diverse in programs, and I often get asked about what we do and who we serve. For starters, there are over 50 programs that we manage, operate, or fund in Pierce County, so it isn’t easy to narrow down or generalize the good work we do! It is our mission to work hard to ensure all residents have equitable access to community-based services that respect each person’s unique experience. Most of our programs focus on low-income families, children, seniors, and disabled individuals, but we want to invest in all individuals and help communities thrive in every way imaginable.
Our biggest division in the Human Services Department is Aging and Disability Resources, or ADR, for short. We provide case management services and fund other agencies to assist with home care, health homes, transportation, medical, food services, and other programs. We also provide financial, health, and safety resources for family and kinship caregivers. The Aging and Disability Resource Center is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and provides anyone who calls with information about everything from education on fall prevention to how they can receive assistance with Medicaid applications.
Within ADR is our Developmental Disabilities (DD) division, which is small but mighty! We provide services to children aged birth to three with developmental delays and work closely with physicians and provider agencies to offer supervision and ensure all services are in accordance with federal and state laws. We also provide employment and day services for adults with developmental disabilities. Our School to Work program is for transition students in their last year of high school. If you read about Joel last month, then you know what wonderful work that team does to support young adults!
Next, Human Services is proud to offer home safety, energy assistance, and early childhood education through our Community Actions Programs. This division serves as the safety net for some of the most vulnerable residents by assisting with payments to heat providers and weatherizing homes, so people stay warm in the winter. Also, homeowners can apply for help with home repairs and we send out contractors to fix issues related to safety, such as electrical and plumbing modifications.
Also, we have two special needs transportation programs called Beyond the Borders and Mobility Management, that help residents across the county get to work, medical appointments, and run necessary errands. We receive Community Block Grants that are provided to us every year to expand economic opportunities to benefit low- and moderate-income areas. These funds are commonly spent on youth violence prevention and developing a homeless crisis response system across Pierce County. Our numbers show that our creativity with Coordinated Entry is working! In fact, we were just named as an Anchor Community by A Way Home Washington, an advocacy group dedicated to ending youth homelessness in Washington State by 2022.
Likewise, affordable housing is an important issue that we are working to resolve in many of our programs, but we are thankful for funding through the Community Development Corporation that allows us to improve economic development through loans. So far this year, 151 new affordable rental and ownership housing units were awarded! Once completed, these units will provide safe and affordable housing to seniors, veterans, disabled individuals, and homeless households and families. We offer low interest and zero interest loans to homeowners who need assistance with rehabilitation and replacement of substandard homes, as well as residents buying their first home! As of this writing our 2018 numbers show we helped thirteen homeowners complete major rehabilitation to their homes and helped eight residents become first time homeowners! Additionally, in partnership with the Pierce County Economic Development Department, we also provide loans to businesses that create jobs for low income workers.
Commitment to service is in our DNA, which is why we honor Veterans through our Veterans Assistance Program that provides support with emergency financial assistance to indigent veterans. Not only do we provide support for rent, food, utilities, medical, dental, and burial costs, but we also seek ways to improve services for veterans. In addition to financial support, we provide services in advocacy and counseling through our Alternatives to Violence project in the Pierce County Jail to incarcerated veterans.
While all the Human Services programs generally serve disabled or low-income residents, nothing is black and white. I encourage you to contact us if you have questions or need support in some way, because you never know how we may be able to assist you. For example, we do not provide behavioral health services directly, but we have relationships with other agencies (and even fund some of their programs!) who are able to help you find a doctor, receive a mental health evaluation, or locate the closest outpatient treatment program for you.
The Human Services Department is large, but it matches the hearts of our dedicated and compassionate employees. We are currently hiring for many positions, so if you want to become part of the positive change we are making in the lives of thousands of residents, please join our team! My main purpose of writing this blog is to introduce you to the services offered in anticipating that you share this information, so we can help those who need it most.
Do you know a veteran or someone with special needs who needs transportation assistance getting to work? The Road to Independence offers free rides to and from work in NE Pierce County and South King County. Let us help.
Does your disabled adult child want to start a hobby or find a job that improves his or her independence? We administer employment and day services through providers that are consistent with the participants’ interests, skills, and goals. Let us help.
Are your neighbors at risk of becoming homeless and have a child turning four this winter? Contact one of our Early Childhood Education and Assistance Programs that help support children and families through education, community resources, development screenings, and free USDA meals. Let us help.
Do you know someone on the Key Peninsula who is having a difficult time traveling? The Mustard Seed Project provides door to door transportation services throughout the western-most parts of Pierce County. Let us help.
Are you worried about your elderly grandmother’s health because costly vegetables and healthier options are too expensive for her limited income? Contact the ADRC and ask for a farmers market voucher so she can eat healthy at no cost. Let us help.
To learn more about Human Services programs, visit our website. To see where we are headed over the next few years, view our strategic plan.
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Mahatma Gandhi