Net­work­ing con­fer­ence at Charles County De­part­ment of So­cial Ser­vices is a suc­cess

Maryland Independent - - News - By TIF­FANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @TIFFINDYNEWS

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.”

STAFF PHOTOS BY TIF­FANY WAT­SON

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.

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