Greetings from the bunker! As we get ready to put 2019 behind us, here is a quick review of the great work the Human Services Department has accomplished or funded in Pierce County:
- County staff have answered over 12,000 calls to our Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC), most from family caregivers. We have really stepped up our ADRC outreach and marketing this year, and it’s paying off! Have you seen any of it? We have eight digital shorts, a four-episode series on Pierce County Television, 3 commercials, and numerous advertisements through the Grand Cinema Theater and Pierce Transit buses. We have many resources to share with family caregivers, so if you are one or know one, call us at 253-789-4600.
- Our Community Action Programs have provided over $600,000 in assistance (since October – just two months!) to over 1,400 low-income households who need help paying their energy bills. Without this assistance, their power may be disconnected, which creates dangerous situations for young children, seniors, and individuals with disabilities.
- Our Weatherization team worked with staff and residents at Marymount Manor to improve their heating and air quality by installing new ductless heating pumps and other eco-friendly items. Residents now have working fans, energy efficient heaters and lights that reduce energy usage and costly bills. Not only are residents breathing easier, but they are also enjoying air conditioning for the first time in 30+ years!
- The Anchor Communities Initiative to end youth homelessness has driven us this year to expand street outreach focused on rural areas, people of color, and LGBTQ+ youth. We also have increased case management and access to services at our youth shelters.
- In the area of Behavioral Health, we’ve funded over 8,000 hours of outreach to our county’s most vulnerable populations from the Mobile Crisis Intervention Response Team (MCIRT). We are looking forward to Comprehensive Life Resources expanding this program even further into Lakewood, Gig Harbor, and the Key Peninsula in 2020.
- Our Veterans Assistance Programs had 75 new clients register for assistance this year, making a total of 3,050 active client files. The program provided $396,149 in relief to Veterans and their families for assistance with rent, utilities, and more. $31,455 was provided to the Incarcerated Veterans program, which offers the Alternatives to Violence Program inside the jail. This program provided counseling to 84 veterans and helped maintain a low recidivism rate (6.9%) for the year.
I am proud of the work everyone in the department has done this year, both as professionals and as great human beings. Each year staff members choose to host at least two charitable drives that benefit the community. The Peanut Butter Drive this past spring produced enough donations to make 24,576 peanut butter sandwiches and help fill 6,000 bags of food distributed to children in Pierce County. Just a few months ago employees participated in Santa for Seniors through our partners at Lutheran Community Services. Because of the generosity of Human Services staff, an additional 200 older adults living in skilled nursing facilities and assisted living communities will be receiving gifts this holiday season.
I am now in my fifth (already?!) month as the Director of Human Services for Pierce County, and I continue to learn more every day. In addition to getting to know many of you at meetings and events across the county, I’ve been spending time “in the field” with our amazing staff and contractors providing weatherization support, health homes case management, homeless outreach, encampment cleanup, minor home repair, veteran support, and affordable housing. The needs are vast and varied, but Pierce County is answering the call. This is only scratching the surface, so if you want to learn more about our great work, I encourage you to visit Open Pierce County.
Happy Holidays, and please keep our active duty and veterans, both overseas and in our neighborhoods, in your thoughts and plans for the season.
Thanks for your partnership. Cheers!