3/20/15: Poloncarz Unveils "Initiatives for a Stronger Community"

Modified: March 20, 2015 1:06pm

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Administration’s Health and Human Services Includes Numerous County Departments, Community-Based Human Services Agencies
49 Actionable Initiatives in 4 Major Areas Improve Quality of life for Residents in Need

ERIE COUNTY, NY— Today, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz was joined by Commissioners from the County Departments of Health, Mental Health, Social, Senior, and Veterans’ Services, Probation, Public Advocacy, and the Office for the Disabled along with representatives from numerous community-based human service agencies at the Lt. Col. Matt Urban Center in Buffalo to unveil his administration’s health and human services plan, “Initiatives for a Stronger Community”. The wide-reaching plan contains 49 initiatives spread across four major areas that Erie County, working in conjunction with partners, can take to effect positive change in the lives of residents who are in need.

“Erie County is undergoing a transformational period, with an improving economy and markedly lower unemployment than when I took office in January 2012. While these developments are welcome, not everyone has benefitted from this transformation. There is significant work to be done to ensure that all residents reap some benefits from our rising economic tide,” said Poloncarz. “The 49 initiatives contained in the plan address this inequality by identifying specific actions Erie County and our partner agencies can take to improve the quality of life for residents in need. In areas such as breaking down barriers to employment, supporting children and families, promoting lifelong health, and providing timely assistance where and when it’s needed, Erie County can lead or cooperate with partners to effect positive change. While no one initiative can solve all of our problems, there may never be a better time than now to get started.”

The inclusive health & human services plan is grouped into four main categories and includes a total of 49 individual initiatives. The categories are: employment and financial security, dedicated to breaking down barriers to employment opportunities and financial security and creating greater self-sufficiency; strong families, strong schools, strong children, a section that recognizes the challenges our young people face and identifies ways to support them and their families, strengthen academic success, and prepare them for growing employment opportunities in our community; lifelong health, which identifies the many health challenges residents face and the threats they pose to self-sufficiency as well as identifying ways to support both physical wellness and mental health; and Help Where and When it is Needed, including initiatives that acknowledge that most people do not need permanent assistance but rather specific types of help for a variety of needs at critical points in their lives.

Marlies Wesolowski, Executive Director of the Lt. Col. Matt Urban Human Services Center, added, “Many times, individuals are not aware of the assistance that might be available to them as they try to enter the workforce, resolve financial issues, or strengthen their families. While the need is real, unfortunately there is often a disconnect that leaves people who need help of some type going without it. We are working to correct that across many areas, and to make sure that individuals will have the supports they need to be healthy, productive members of our community.”

“Say Yes Buffalo has worked closely with Erie County and other partners to improve educational outcomes and provide wraparound health and human services to students and their families.  Examples include expansion of mental health clinics in schools, and placement of Say Yes Family Support Specialists in each school building to provide support to students, parents, teachers and administrators in addressing barriers to student achievement.  We look forward to expanding that outreach even more,” added David Rust, Executive Director of Say Yes to Education, Buffalo. “Education is closely tied to many other economic and societal indicators, and efforts to strengthen it, when accompanied by the provision of necessary supports, are crucial to the success of our community.”

Poloncarz continued, “Taken together, these initiatives provide a compassionate and comprehensive work plan to tackle some of our society’s most pervasive issues. We are leveraging county resources, assets, and personnel with comparable contributions from community partners to collaboratively address issues that affect our community’s overall well-being. As we’ve seen with the ‘Initiatives for a Smart Economy’, cooperation with partners is a force-multiplier and brings far greater resources and skills to the table.”

The Initiatives for a Stronger Community are the product of a year of intensive dialogue and meetings between county officials and community human service agencies to identify and develop a plan for addressing community issues that negatively affect individuals and families. Individual initiative timelines, potential partners, and anticipated impacts and outcomes are included in the plan along with methods for tracking results and reporting on progress. The full report can be read here.