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Assistance agencies to provide 'single point of entry'

February 13, 2000|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

For parents of children with physical or mental health problems, finding the proper social service agency to meet their needs can be daunting.

People who try to find help on their own can become discouraged if they are told repeatedly they don't meet an agency's requirements or if a particular agency doesn't perform the services they expect, according to John Budesky, director of the Washington County Local Management Board.

The Local Management Board was formed in 1996 to fund, manage and coordinate programs to help troubled families find the social services they need, said Budesky. The agency focuses on early intervention using existing resources and whole-family treatment.

To prevent the children of these parents from falling through the cracks and to aid them in getting appropriate care, the organization will use $1.5 million in state grants over a five-year period to establish the Community Care Coordination Center in Hagerstown.

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The center will act as a "single point of entry," where families are directed to various community agencies and organizations, Budesky said.

"It is our hope that it will take out some of the confusion about what's available," he said.

Budesky said the center's aim is to simplify the process of finding the right help for people in such areas as substance abuse, mental health, job training and literacy education.

"We want to get every agency possible involved," he said.

The Community Care Coordination Center will receive its clients by referrals from schools, doctors, public agencies and word of mouth, he said.

Employees are being hired to run the program and they will start serving families in April, Budesky said.

The center has the potential to affect hundreds of children in the county, he said.

It will be run by Potomac Case Management on Antietam Street in Hagerstown, and the Local Management Board will work with its agencies, he said.

The Community Coordination Center's programs are voluntary and families participating meet with a coordinator who assesses the needs of the entire family and refer them to the appropriate services, he said.

This system acts as preventive maintenance, by enabling coordinators to identify family problems and address them early to avoid children being removed from homes, he said.

The center will work with families for up to five years with a goal of having them become self-sufficient, he said.

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