Networking conference at Charles County Department of Social Services is a success
The Charles County Department of Social Services has found a way to help residents resolve issues within their household — without being misinformed. The resolution involves a hand-inhand partnership with agencies ready to be of assistance to county residents.
On May 26, social services held a networking conference for community partners to learn about each other’s services, better improve agency relationships and provide services to the wide resource system in Maryland.
Twenty-three agencies came to the social services building in La Plata to discuss what they are able to do, including Charles County Public Schools, Hospice of Charles County, College of Southern Maryland, University of Maryland Extension Charles County, La Plata Police Department, New Hope Community Outreach, Charles County Literacy Council and Charles County Freedom Landing. Agencies gave presentations about the intricate services provided for residents in need.
“Providing social services to the citizens of Charles County is complex and requires constant communication between as many organizations as possible to ensure we work better together,” said Therese Wolf, director of the Department of Social Services. “The community forum was an opportunity for public and private, state and county, big and small organizations to network and learn about one another’s services. With so many diverse funding sources, each with different eligibility requirements and often a very different focus, it is important that we stop once in awhile and just meet each other, talk to each other about who does what, how and when. Building these relationships is key to providing the best services possible to everyone in this county.”
According to the department, services and programming change within local agencies over the course of time.
“When we make a referral to local residents and their family, we want to make sure that we are making the right type of referral to an agency,” said Wanda Collins, social services in-home services administrator. “We as providers need to keep up with information because we don’t want to misguide someone and they may already be in a crisis. This is so that we can better serve our residents. It’s a teaching opportunity, even for the different agencies.”
Beth Fiske with the Department of Aging and Disability Services said the networking conference was a great opportunity to meet face to face with those they make referrals to over the phone. The agencies also get a better understanding of what exactly each organization is capable of providing and how they can all partner together to better help Charles County residents.
“There is a new program called Maryland Access Point, which is a referral tool for people who are aging, disabled or a caregiver for someone who is aging,” Fiske said. “It is referred to as a ‘no wrong door’ concept. Charles County aging and disabled residents give us a call with the issue that is driving them crazy, and we help to point them in the right direction, especially for longterm support services and people who are having difficulty taking care of their parents.”
Jessica Conjour, nutrition educator at University of Maryland Extension-Charles County, said her organization is geared toward families and agriculture. She demonstrated research showing health and wellness are very important to the families of Charles County.
“Agriculture is a big deal, especially down here in Charles County,” Conjour said. “It’s nice to have a connection with this county because it shows you where the food grows, and it’s nice to be local to that. Community outreach is important to the university and we need people to know about what we offer and we go everywhere there are families who need us.”
Joyce Abramson, executive director of Charles County Freedom Landing, had the opportunity to present the focus areas of her facility’s psychiatric rehabilitation program. Freedom Landing works with county residents who have a serious, longterm mental illness diagnosis.
“Our goal is to help people in the community maintain and address illness,” Abramson said. “We came to this community forum because we get calls all the time for referrals, so I want people to also be aware of the restrictions we have in terms of people coming to our program. Our services allow us to assist people who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression that is recurring, as well as working with folks who have some functioning issues. We hope that Charles County Freedom Landing’s presence today will also help in terms of stigmatizing people will mental illness.”
There have also been changes in the county’s social services department. For example, many of the agency’s services are now online, which members said is a faster resource for residents. The department plans to continue embracing partnerships with local agencies and will provide support services that help families get started with computer-based systems, which can be complicated.
“It’s about our Charles County consumer,” Collins said. “We don’t want our residents frustrated and we will try to improve our communication and knowledge base, improve our partnerships within the county and we’ll teach each other and share with each other how to make proper referrals — depending on what that family needs.”
Barbara Ives, director of the office of strategic partnerships at College of Southern Maryland, holds a question-and-answer session with representatives from other organizations at the Charles County Department of Social Services networking conference.
On May 26, 23 agencies attended the Charles County Department of Social Services networking conference and community forum to learn about each agencies’ available resources.