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Expo provides help for Pa. agencies and residents

September 22, 2006|by KATE S. ALEXANDER

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Franklin County's 2006 Human Services Expo is about providing information to the public, and with more than 80 human service agencies represented Thursday, visitors left the event with bags full of pamphlets, pens and promotional paraphernalia.

But the expo, hosted by the Franklin County Community Forum (FCCF), was as much about spreading information among the agencies as it was spreading information to the public.

"This is where agencies network," said Jennifer Marchand, board member of the FCCF and representative of Penn State Mont Alto Human Development and Family Studies program.

Marchand said that one hour before the doors of the Franklin Fire Hall opened the expo to the public, representatives of the agencies enjoyed a cup of coffee while they circulated around the room and spoke with one another about their services.

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Human services professionals also came to the expo to network with the agencies. Stacey Frey, a mental health casework supervisor in Franklin County, came to gather information for her consumers and make contacts with related agencies.

"This helps make my job easier," Frey said, picking up a pen and a business card. "Having their business cards available just makes yet another link for us to provide to our consumers."

Of the human service issues facing Franklin County residents, agency representatives and organizers at the expo believed the rising cost of health care to be the county's greatest challenge.

The National Coalition on Health Care reported on its Web site that 50 percent of Americans worry about paying too much for health care while 42 percent worry about not being able to pay for health care.

Steven Jarrell, income maintenance caseworker for the Franklin County Assistance Office said his office already assist residents with the cost of health care. The problem, he said, is that residents do not know his office can help.

While human service agencies offer help to those in need, they have needs of their own. Kim Lucas, director of the Cross-Systems Department of the Franklin County Human Services Office and board member of the FCCF, argued that funding was an obstacle for most of the 80 agencies, saying most are "underfunded and understaffed."

Despite the funding constraints, many of the agencies at the expo promoted new programs or services, most designed to reach out to the county's growing Hispanic population.

Sherry Cline, education coordinator for Pregnancy Ministries Inc. and director of A+ for Abstinence, said her agency just printed most of its materials in Spanish and enlisted the help of a woman who is bilingual.

Frey said she was impressed with the amount of information available in Spanish.

"I appreciate seeing things in Spanish," she said. "It shows that they are trying to meet the needs of our ethnic minorities."

The Human Services Expo is held annually in September.

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