Spotlight on the American Rescue Plan

Using funds received from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the County of Bucks through its Division of Human Services has allocated millions to shore up key elements of the county’s mental health system and enhance community services and support.

The Human Services Division has so far awarded 21 projects grants totaling approximately $5,000,000.

To determine where to direct funding, Human Services department heads and senior county leadership assessed applications for funding submitted by community providers. The process focused on programs with the potential to do the most good for those members of our community who were hit hardest by lockdowns, economic downturn and other pandemic-related hardships.

Highlighted here are just a few of the exciting programs and projects that will be funded by ARPA grants from Bucks County.

Bucks County Community College - Veterans and Military-Connected Adult Student Support Program

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The County of Bucks awarded Bucks County Community College (BCCC) American Rescue Plan Act funding to create the Coordinator of Veteran and Military-Connected Student Services position (Coordinator) designed to give military-connected students a dedicated resource to have questions answered, get advice, find additional support and services, and to create opportunities for those students to grow as a community within the college. In this role, the Coordinator, Brian Gradzinski, has made connections with multiple 4-year colleges in the Philadelphia region, Veterans’ Affairs advocates, veteran owned businesses, and other military-connected friendly organizations. By doing this, he has made available multiple avenues for BCCC’s students to gain access to resources, overcome personal obstacles and hardships, and further their education.

This Coordinator position was created to give military-connected students better opportunities to enjoy the “college experience”. As a unique community, the focus of the military program is to expand the military-connected presence on campus and help those students connect with one another. To accomplish this, Brian has collaborated with multiple departments on campus to provide additional resources specifically for the military-connected students. BCCC has added a military-connected component to orientation, begun working on a military-connected student tutoring program, created a faculty mentor position, and has begun hosting events just for that community.

The first event held for BCCC military-connected students was an introductory class at Shamrock Reins. Shamrock Reins is a non-profit organization that specializes in providing equine therapy for veterans and first responders. They created a program just for Bucks County Community College to introduce its students to equine therapy, while helping them overcome the stress they may experience while attending college and preparing for exams. Janet Brennan at Shamrock Reins, along with her staff, have been so welcoming and have agreed to continue this relationship in the future for Bucks’ military-connected students.

BCCC also held its first Red, White, and Blue Day on campus to celebrate Veterans’ Day. Students and staff were given the opportunity to show their support for BCCC’s veteran students and their families. A luncheon was held for the military-connected students to show the school’s appreciation and give them the opportunity to come together with peers that have similar experiences. The luncheon brought together multiple departments and students from the school and gave them the chance to relax with each other and speak to representatives from different college departments about resources at BCCC. Collaborating with the physical plant at BCCC, we also lined the college walkways with American flags to show the school’s commitment to its military-connected students and remind them that they have its support.

Finally, Veterans’ Student Services connected with a local military-friendly organization that provides toys for children of active-duty military personnel that are deployed. BCCC will be helping them collect those toys to show the school’s support for the surrounding community.

In the upcoming semester, BCCC will continue to expand the military-connected presence on campus. Veterans’ Student Services will once again partner with Shamrock Reins to provide a specially designed intro class to its students, it will be introducing a competition opportunity exclusively for its military-connected students, it will be collaborating with a local 4-year college to create a new military-connected program for the region, and it will host additional events to allow students time to relax, connect, and learn about resources available to them.

Pyramid Healthcare, Inc. - Air Filtration Systems at Langhorne and Quakertown Facilities

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With an American Rescue Plan Act award from the County of Bucks, Pyramid Healthcare, Inc. was able to provide physical plant enhancements to improve the safety of clients and employees while accessing behavioral healthcare services.  Improved air filtration systems at the Langhorne and Quakertown residential facilities were installed to reduce the potential spread of Covid-19 and other airborne diseases through air transmission.  The filtration systems were installed in the summer of 2023 and are making a significant difference in the air quality in the facilities.

Specific populations that shall benefit from the improved facilities include individuals with substance use disorder who often present with additional social determinant barriers such as homelessness, a very low income, and/or active status in the criminal justice system. Pyramid serves approximately 500 Bucks County residents annually. 

Enhancements to the air filtration system at the Langhorne and Quakertown facilities will help mitigate the negative impact of Covid-19 and other airborne illnesses in these residential buildings at which individuals live and attend meals, meetings, and support groups together. The healthcare staff is also ecstatic about the cleaner air in the treatment and assessment offices.  Filtration units have also been installed in the cafeterias/dining rooms, meeting rooms, hallways, fitness areas, and more.  

 The goal of mitigating the spread of diseases at the facilities will be measured by the number of client and employee cases by location by month. Measures include overall number of positive cases as well as positivity rate. When used properly, air filtration systems can help reduce airborne contaminants in buildings or designated spaces.  


Neighborhood First Program, Inc. - Attending School Is Priority (ASIP) Truancy Program

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Bucks County awarded Neighborhood First Program, Inc. (Neighborhood First) American Rescue Plan Act funds to support the Attending School Is Priority (ASIP) Truancy Program which addresses barriers to attending school for at-risk youth in the Lower Bucks area.  To prevent truancy, areas of concern being addressed by the ASIP Program include lack of transportation to school, missing school/being placed in quarantine due to Covid-19, academic performance, behavioral issues, and others.  This truancy prevention project facilitated by Neighborhood First will provide services for approximately 60 youth during two school years.  

The programming for this project includes active and intensive mentoring with truant kids to stay focused on them to get them back in school.  A few of the reasons for a child not wanting to go to school include time management (always late), parental challenges, bullying, autism, anxiety, low self-esteem, geographic instability (cycle of renting/moving), etc.  Kids are usually engaged with Neighborhood First for approximately six months.  Neighborhood First prefers to keep cases open as long as it takes to ensure that a child gets the appropriate supports and doesn’t leave the program too soon only to slide right back into the truancy cycle. Referrals to the program come from Bucks County Children & Youth, Bucks County Co-Responders, schools, and Juvenile Probation.   More than 30 kids participate in the after-school program. A notable concern is that many younger kids (10-12 years old) are becoming truant in addition to the 13-17 years old historical norm. 

Because the ASIP Program is effective and truancy prevention so important for the well-being of our young people, Neighborhood First is also planning to add a modular unit to the existing property to create space for day programs for kids who are not comfortable in a school setting or who may have more severe mental health issues; they could offer services to up to 60 more kids.  

Ivins Outreach Center in Partnership with School District of Borough of Morrisville

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Bucks County American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding supports a consortium of Lower Bucks County School Districts associated with Ivins Outreach Center and the local community by providing additional funds towards school-day, afterschool and summer programs, as well as vital resources for food disparities. As a response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Bucks County awarded the Ivins Outreach Center a grant to support its endeavors towards persistent academic needs and food inequality. The ARPA grant monies are designated specifically to address disparities in health and education as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The School District of Borough of Morrisville (SDBM) has applied these funds to supplement afterschool and summer programs to allow them to run at full capacity when a previous grant ended. These programs provide tutoring in Mathematics and English Language Arts and facilitate daily educational and recreational activities to keep students engaged during out-of-school time. ARPA grant funds compensated teachers and staff to maintain attendance levels at an appropriate student to staff ratio. Also afforded by this grant is a Spanish-speaking liaison, Tanya Argueta, to promote higher Hispanic student participation in the afterschool program. Recent reports show the Spanish-speaking communities are increasingly underserved since COVID-19 struck due to language barriers. Ms. Argueta alleviates this statistic for SDBM by providing a direct line of communication with this population of students and families. 

Additionally funded by ARPA within the SDBM are school-day programs that previously could not run under other grant funding streams due to strict PDE guidelines. A partnership with Snipes Farm brought nutrition classes to students in grades K-5 and the Seed to Fork project for high schoolers led by Ken Kelman and Angelo Pfaff. Snipes introduces students to various forms of farming that not only educates them on the processes, but also instills capabilities for students to hone their skills in planting, growing, and harvesting their own food products. Furthermore, the young farmers learn delicious recipes to make with their pickings. In a suburban county less than 35 minutes from a major city, farming is easily forgotten as a viable career path. Students are able to explore and reap the benefits of sustainability, innovation, and daily manual labor. 

Lastly, these funds granted an incredible program to Holy Trinity School that combines basketball with social emotional learning teaching students the importance of connecting with yourself and your peers. HOOPS is facilitated by Eric Stark who brings his connections with reputable resources into schools to encourage students to be better teammates by learning how to be the best version of themselves. 

 

Family Service Association of Bucks County - Working For Children Initiative

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Via the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), Bucks County awarded $480,993 to Family Service Association to support the agency-operated Bucks County Emergency Homeless Shelter (the Shelter) in Levittown, Pennsylvania. The ARPA Working for Children grant initiative funded by the grant makes it possible for Shelter residents to secure childcare, so they can focus on getting back to work.

Unaffordable childcare has always been an issue for families residing at the Shelter, but in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic worsened this problem. Lack of childcare became a primary issue as most businesses closed their doors or converted to remote work. While essential employers remained open for in-person employment, many of our shelter residents lost their jobs due to not having childcare. The pandemic caused a ripple effect. Childcare facilities needed help to keep their business doors open and families needed funds to get kids in childcare.

Receiving the ARPA grant was the catalyst which made it possible for employers like childcare businesses to open their doors for these essential services to resume, so families in need could re-focus their priorities on searching for, securing, and starting employment.

The  Shelter has been a program of Family Service since 2012, operating 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is the only emergency homeless shelter in Bucks County and operates as low-barrier, accepting individuals and families, 1/3 of whom are children, without condition. It is consistently at its 75-bed capacity, with a waitlist of families seeking admission. Shelter residents have less than 30% of the area's Median Family Income. On average, households have an income of $800 monthly/$ 9,600 annually, and most residents enter with zero income.

During their stay, Shelter residents can expect far more than three (3) nutritious meals per day and a safe, warm place to sleep.  The staff and services have a tremendous impact on improving individuals' lives and helping them integrate back into the community. Case Managers utilize a Service Plan  to meet with each resident within three days (3) of shelter enrollment to establish goals and address housing stability barriers. Additionally, Family Service offers several valuable educational programs and resources during their stay, ranging from financial management courses, wellness checks and educational seminars, family strengthening opportunities, site visits from employers and other many opportunities to improve their respective situations while at the Shelter. Further, individuals with high barriers receive referrals for supportive services to address issues involving substance use, mental illness, forensic background, and co-occurring disorders.

A standard timeframe of 60-90 days is set forth for residents to track and achieve all of their goals, although this number has fluctuated since the pandemic, and post-pandemic ‘collateral damage’ to the economy and housing market have sometimes increased this timeframe. 

The Shelter works in collaboration with partner agencies to equip families with resources and tools tools that can impact their children's lives, thus helping to end the generational cycle of homelessness. 

 Prioritizing Families to End of Homelessness:

Bucks County Coordinated Entry system, referred to as the Housing Link Helpline, is directly responsible for prioritizing households with children to enter the Shelter with minimal delay. The Housing Link Helpline encompasses a network of housing providers throughout the region, all of whom collaborate to provide services that are geared  toward ending homelessness.

Shelter staff work closely with Housing Link partners and many other like-minded entities, who are collectively focused on making homelessness rare and brief. The highest priority remains housing families with children, and ensuring no children spend a night in a car or even worse, on the street.

Through these collaborative partnerships, Family Service continues to successfully reduce the number of individuals waiting for emergency shelter and the length of time it takes individuals to enter its facility. 

Shelter Service Components:

As mentioned, Family Service continues to provide all core Shelter services and routinely evaluates how service can be enhanced. Some of these services include the following.  

Case Management Assessment- emphasizing employment, use of community-based services, outreach to community members, including residents' family members, and movement into permanent housing. 

Employment – Shelter case management staff work in partnership with CareerLink and various local businesses willing to offer On-The-Job training to connect clients to employment opportunities. And many clients who lack job skills are referred to vocational and apprenticeship programs to help facilitate employment.

Increasing Income- Clients are connected to jobs and/or social service benefits. For those who are unemployable due to disability, they receive assistance to apply for income benefits. Family Service collaborates with CareerLink and assist with identifying opportunities.  

Permanent Housing Placement- Housing Case Managers prioritize housing search while residents are also working with other resources to overcome other barriers. Housing options include the Rapid Rehousing program, Housing Choice Section-8 voucher, Mental Health Housing, and local apartments through partnerships with local landlords.

Budgeting – A budgeting component has been added to case management, to ensure that residents are saving 50% of their disposable income in a bank savings account that is managed by the Family Service fiscal team. This component ensures that residents do not exceed their budget and teaches them to plan/save for the future. 

Nursing –Each resident admitted to the Shelter meets with the Nurse to complete a Comprehensive Nursing Assessment. The Shelter Nurse also conducts follow up to discuss residents' diagnoses, schedule any required follow-up appointments, and make sure all children have immunizations needed up to date.

Parenting Education The Shelter promotes positive parenting through collaboration with offerings and seminars hosted by our agency’s acclaimed Family Strengthening Program. 

Resource Network – The Shelter Housing Case Management Team helps clients connect with community resources, which include mental health, drug and alcohol counseling/support; housing programs; and government benefits. Our case management staff networks with our partners to assist residents in navigating the homeless service system. 

Martha Miller No Longer Bound Community Center in Bristol -

Educational Programming

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No Longer Bound is a prevention based non-profit organization that focuses on community empowerment. Their mission is to empower the community by providing educational programming and training to address drug and alcohol abuse, increase positive social development, and improve overall well-being.

The American Rescue Plan Act has enabled No Longer Bound to continue their mission of providing educational programming.

In October, No Longer Bound began offering a free out-of-school program for elementary-aged youth with a focus on reading skills enhancement. The out-of-school program focuses on enrichment. The program includes Healthy Eating and Active Time activities, Too Good for Drugs and Violence programming, visits from the Penn State Cooperative Extension 4-H, the Master Gardeners, and Amplifying Black Brilliance in Partnership with the Bristol Riverside Theater.

Reading Program: The goal of the Reading Program is to help students develop effective reading skills and enjoy reading for different purposes. This part of the program will allow students to improve their self-confidence by having a positive and rewarding reading experience.

 Healthy Eating and Active Time Activities: Students are engaging in 26 hands-on activities that focus on learning skills to make informed decisions regarding nutrition and physical fitness, leading to a healthy and vibrant community.  

 Too Good for Drugs and Violence After School Programming: Students are learning skills and strengthening their healthy development through learning about goal setting, communication, decision-making, conflict resolution, managing emotions, drug awareness, bonding and relationships, and community through hands-on activities, games and role plays.

 Penn State Cooperative Extension 4H and Master Gardeners: Students have been learning about agriculture through hands-on activities provided by 4-H; the program introduces youth to the various ways agriculture interacts with their daily lives.

The Master Gardeners have been visiting once a month to provide hands-on horticultural experiences.

Amplifying Black Brilliance in Partnership with the Bristol Riverside Theater: On February 10, students performed at the Bristol Riverside Theatre Rehearsal Studio. The Bristol Riverside Theatre Education Program provided a 5-week series entitled Amplifying Black Brilliance. The goal of the program was to celebrate the voice of young people of color through creative arts including African drumming and dancing. 

School Based Programming: The ARPA funds have provided No Longer Bound with funding to expand its programming to offer the Too Good for Violence Program to over 500 students in Bristol Township Schools. This program covers respect for self and others, conflict resolution, anger management, managing bullying situations, and problem solving.

 Community Resources

  • No Longer Bound partnered with community members to host a backpack giveaway. Collaboratively, they provided over 100 bags to families.
  • This past fall they distributed over 150 children’s coats provided by Cars for Kids and over 400 hats, scarves, and toiletries provided by NGA.
  • No Longer Bound hosted family movie night and family game night.

 Coming soon

Restorative Parenting: The staff at No Longer Bound has been partnering with the Tariq Khamisa Foundation (TKF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to the mission of creating safer schools and communities by educating and inspiring children in the restorative principles of accountability, compassion, forgiveness, and peacemaking. Staff have been participating in training with the goal of offering free Restorative Parenting training this coming May.

Summer Fun Camp: Beginning July 3rd, No Longer Bound will offer a 6-week Summer Fun Camp. This camp will include visits from community agencies, hands on activities, games, meals, and end with a field trip to Big Kahuna.

For more information on programming at the Martha Miller, No Longer Bound Community Center, please email info@nolongerboundpa.org.

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Reach Out Foundation is a peer-to-peer drop-in center which seeks to help individuals with mental illness, addiction disorder or co-occurring disorders participate in community life and live better lives overall. The program’s mission is to provide a safe and supportive environment to assist participants in recognizing their strengths and power to recover and is the only program of its type in the area, with services exclusively provided by staff with lived experience of mental illness and/or addiction disorder.

Historically, one of the main barriers to program participation has been transportation. The majority of participants neither drive nor have access to regular transportation, which can also further isolate individuals. Through an ARPA grant of $62,000, Reach Out Foundation purchased a 14-passenger transport van enabling the program to expand its reach to serve more individuals, more often thus attracting new participants and increasing services to existing ones. In the van’s first months of service, the program is already seeing an increase in participation.

Through peer support and modeling, Reach Out staff helps participants navigate mental health treatment by connecting them to resources and community supports; at the same time, participants are learning to advocate for their own needs.

The non-profit program also offers participants a variety of structured activities, personal development and learning opportunities, and support groups – encouraging peer interaction, socialization, and providing critical support for individuals who, for a variety of reasons, may not otherwise seek out or engage in such activities and services. Groups rotate on a regular basis and include a variety of offerings from anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and general support groups to activities such as music, writing, crafts, meditation and aromatherapy, and trivia.  Offsite events such as bowling, museum visits, and sporting events are also offered free or for very low cost to encourage additional community interaction and provide social opportunities for participants.

With the help of ARPA funds, Reach Out will continue to be able to serve even more individuals for many years to come. Visit rofbucks.org or call 215-970-5462 for additional information about Reach Out Foundation programming.

 

Penndel Mental Health Center - Electronic Health Record System

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At Penndel Mental Health Center, American Rescue Plan Act funding from Bucks County is being utilized to provide better, more efficient client services and supports to the individuals and families they serve by augmenting their Electronic Health Record (EHR).  The EHR is a comprehensive software system that collects and stores patient health information electronically.  The information stored contains a range of data, including but not limited to, demographics, medical history, medication, laboratory test results, and treatment/service documentation.  It allows for scheduling appointments, recording services, and processing payments.  The areas that will have most impact in enriching the client experience are:  

The Client Portal:   Penndel was able to begin production on a client portal, which is tied to its new Electronic Health Record.  Not only will clients have direct access to their health records, but they will also be able to request appointments and/or medication refills, sign documents, complete assessments and communicate with their treatment team.  Clients will be able to complete necessary forms or referrals that were recommended, and subsequently made available, in the portal by their treatment team greatly increasing their ability to access additional services and supports both within Penndel and, also, from outside organizations and agencies.   

e-LABS and eMAR:   The new Electronic Health Record will give Penndel staff the ability to request laboratory testing, bloodwork, and drug screens electronically, making it simpler and more efficient for clients to get these needed tests completed.   Medical staff will be able to receive and view all results electronically within the system thus saving time and assuring quick response times when changes are needed.   The new eMAR (Electronic Medication Administration and Reconciliation) system will allow for more effective monitoring of clients’ medication schedules.  

Other functions:   

  • Appointment reminders, via text messaging, will help to remind clients and families, in a less intrusive means, of an upcoming appointment.  
  • A confidential communication platform will allow clients to speak with their treatment team.
  • A document management system that streamlines completed paperwork to be shared between the client and the treatment team will be available.  

Pictured is the clinical and support staff at Penndel’s “Main Center” (Outpatient Psychiatric Clinic)   participating in a group training event prior to the agency “go live” date with the new Electronic Health Record.    

 

BCHIP - Advance Care Planning

BCHIP - ACP

With an American Rescue Plan grant from Bucks County, the Bucks County Health Improvement Partnership (BCHIP) is engaging with community members of all ages to facilitate Advance Care Planning to ensure that end of life preferences, Advance Directives, are determined by individuals to make sure their last wishes are honored and to make difficult times a little easier for their loved ones. BCHIP is a non-profit organization supported by the Bucks County Department of Health, six Bucks Hospitals, and the Bucks County Medical Society through a collaborative approach to address gaps in healthcare services and improve the health status of the community.  At hospitals, long-term care facilities, and other community centers, BCHIP staff is educating individuals and families on the importance of advance care planning and completing the process to make one’s last wishes clear and actionable. 

 What is an Advance Directive? 

An advance directive, including the selection of a healthcare agent, is a written legal document that outlines your preferences for medical care if you are no longer able to speak for yourself.  Your choices will be put into place by your healthcare providers ONLY when you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself and are either permanently unconscious or have an end stage medical condition.  This document lets you appoint someone to be your healthcare agent. Your healthcare agent will make choices on your behalf when you are no longer able to do so, honoring your written wishes. 

 An advance directive would be a gift for your family because your loved ones deserve it. BCHIP encourages ALL adults--regardless of health or age--to complete an advance directive.  

 Currently, you make all your medical decisions if you can communicate. Think about:  

  • What type of medical care would you want if you had a sudden accident or illness and could not speak for yourself?  
  • Who would you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf? 

During your meeting with our Respecting Choices® trained facilitator, you will have the opportunity to ask any questions and discuss your thoughts while completing the forms in the packet with them.  Subjects you could be documenting on include: 

 Your reflections on things important for your comfort and peace of mind

  • Your end-of-life beliefs identifying specific cultural, religious, and personal beliefs that you want your healthcare agent to follow
  • Your comfort care concerns
  • Your decisions on life-sustaining medical care 
  • Choosing your Healthcare agent (Optional) 


 Advance Care Planning Resources

Meaningful conversations are the best way to begin planning for your future healthcare decisions. BCHIP invites you to meet with one of our Respecting Choices® trained Advance Care Planning facilitators. They will guide you through each aspect of advance care planning. This includes completing an Advance Directive form at no cost

 After meeting with a trained Respecting Choices® facilitator, BCHIP will assist you with copying and mailing to all healthcare agent(s), physician(s), and Bucks County Hospitals at which you receive care.   

You can change this form at any time at no cost.   If you have a current form, BCHIP encourages you to review it for your current wishes and confirm all contact details are current. 

 It is recommended to review your form when any of the following occurs: 

  • Death of family or friend                                                                         
  • Divorce
  • Receiving a new medical diagnosis
  • Experience a significant decline in health
  • Reach a new Decade  


 How to connect

You can visit one of our trained Advance Care Planning facilitators without a referral from your primary care provider. To schedule an appointment contact Bucks County Health Improvement (BCHIP) via phone 267-291-7882 or website – www.bchip.org.  

 If you would like to schedule a meeting or request an educational program at your organization, we are happy to accommodate your request.   We can also schedule large groups or families to assist with the discussion of advance care planning and completion of documents.  

 Advance Care Planning (ACP) will help you plan to ensure your preferences and decisions are known and honored when you are not able to communicate. BCHIP’s trained facilitators are here to help.


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Interim HealthCare of Lower Bucks County - Caring Without Walls

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By definition, a naturally occurring retirement community (NORC) is “a community or neighborhood with a growing population of older adults in which the dwellings were not purposefully intended for older adults when they were originally designed and/or built.” This term was first coined in the early 1980’s in New York City, where older adults were recognized as beginning to comprise majorities in urban areas. Today, in 2023 NORCs are in fact developing in communities all over America in urban and suburban areas, and Bucks County is no exception. 

With American Rescue Plan Act funds from Bucks County, the Care Without Walls (CWOW) program provides services to Bucks County residents aging in place in what equates to an evolving NORC. The difference between a NORC and a traditional retirement community is that traditional communities, such as a continuing care retirement community (CCRC), are residential communities or housing developments designed for older adults wishing to age in place (AIP). Most residents are able to care for themselves, however assistance from homecare agencies is readily available when needed, and community social activities are often provided. Such recognized retirement communities provide designated services under a set fee schedule ranging from $5000-$15,000 per month, and many have substantial entry fees as well – fees that are out of the reach for most of us. Conversely, and driving the need for innovative community services, the vast majority of NORCs do not have organized support for the significant population of older Americans living in emerging NORCs. Providing these services has been a challenge under the traditional homecare model.

CWOW recognizes the fact that to successfully age in place, any senior, will at some time need some assistance. For low-income seniors, public assistance for homecare is readily available for personal care and support as well as other supportive services. For high income seniors, these services are provided via private funds or long-term care insurance programs. However, for “lower to moderate” income folks, (up to 300% of federal poverty level), there are few if any resources available to assist them in the aging in place process. This disparity puts a huge segment of our population at risk of failing to live independently thus competing for limited healthcare dollars. The purpose of the CWOW program is to go outside the box to efficiently, effectively, and continuously provide support, connections, and community to this needy population. With effective application and use of the system, CWOW members cost, on average, under $2000 per month, or over a 50% savings, at a minimum, compared to CCRC and other traditional options.

Once a qualified member is identified, they are introduced to the program and determine how they and the care team will work together.  Personal care and support services are, like in many care plans, the starting point. In fact, CWOW does not do anything new with members, the program just does it differently. For example, CWOW participants must agree to work with the care teams simple technology support.  If we are going to provide quality services that are effective, affordable, and accessible, we need to assure best practices in care communications and continuity.

At plan inception each member is interviewed to identify personal life goals – not just medical history/condition. Patient assessments also include simple surveys such as the Healthy Days Measure, Loneliness Scale, and WHO Quality of Life questionnaires and other subjective goals and aspirations measures that are as critical to the program outcome monitors as traditional clinical data. As a better, more “whole person” assessment is critical to success, CWOW personal care and support aides are trained to work in concert with the aging in place experts at Full Circle America (FCA). FCA is a Maine-based, physician founded company that has pioneered use of simple, proven technology. When this model is consistently applied to the AIP process, with progressive scheduling and use of care team, the outcome is the backbone of a NORC. 

Critical success factors for the CWOW program include the open scheduling of personal care and support aides, regular vital monitoring/sharing, communication in real time of any wellness concerns/issues, all designed to address an issue before it becomes something serious. Regarding service delivery, another critical success factor is the acceptance of different access channels – whichever makes best sense for the member at the time. Aides take vitals regularly and input data to the patient’s Life Health Record (LHR) where data is kept, trended, and shared with appropriate team members. The LHR creates a patient-centered medical home effect, and is a tremendous yet simple tool to augment care communications. The aides assist with a multitude of services, work short shifts if needed, and are all cross trained to support every community member.  Some members receive as little as two to three hours per week to keep them focused on managing whatever conditions they live with – others receive progressive services ranging to near nursing home level of care. Whatever level of care is provided, each member experience relies on engaged patients, flexible focused personal care, and keeping the care team and person connected at the center of the process all informed in near real time. 

Augmenting care with FCA technology and service personnel, a connected staff and constant communication establishes an informed environment for members, their families, and friends to grow in. Additionally, regular, online doctor visits with Dr. Allan Teel, the founder of FCA and a recognized thought leader in aging in place, can access all current information noted in the patient’s unique real time record so the doctor speaks to the “whole” patient. The whole patient refers to chronic care management, medication management, life issues, friends and family, etc. – each of whose input is important to patient condition and personal plans. This process and continual documentation will eliminate the problem of care data gaps that are all too common in the traditional system. 

The key difference is Attitude: listening and hearing what the client is telling you about what matters to them and what they miss the most and then trying to help them achieve their wishes. Sometimes it is just feeling heard or having your concerns validated makes all the difference.

Another critical piece is timely access to caregivers: not always according to the schedule arranged some time ago. Regular check-ins go a long way toward building trust and appreciation. Conveying “actionable information” to the person who needs to know it on short notice happens all too infrequently.

Simple video technology adoption grew exponentially during the Covid pandemic. It can be used to bridge care gaps and to connect clients to other medical providers. Facilitated by caregivers when necessary, technology can connect clients to family, friends, community, and personal interests. Technology is also applied in a way that is not as overtly clinical – some therapy is about entertainment, or reminiscence, or even just something to battle the type of “locked up” isolation that came with Covid. For example, members can take virtual reality ‘trips’ and ‘experiences’ using the MyndVR program taking them to New York or Paris, or ski, or go to a Broadway show. CWOW also provides different video connections for clinical and social interactions that can go a long way in keeping members in touch and informed as they age in place.

Thus far, CWOW is proving that a little help does go a long way to keep folks well and aging in place. Each member served so far is experiencing positive care and economic outcomes – a few examples…

E and D, married for over 62 years, have lived in their home for nearly as long, and they would like to age in place right there. However, D, the 83 year-old spouse of 87 year-old E, is dealing with moderate dementia, several chronic conditions, and depression. With all this, it was getting more difficult for E, at 87 (who has his own medical issues, and is his wife’s primary caregiver), to get her up and active for the day and then have any time or energy for himself. D was in decline when we entered the picture and E was getting tired; some sort of forced separation seemed imminent. CWOW assessed the situation and accepted the couple as clients. Just two hours a week for E and 10 for D spread across 4 days has made a huge difference. A routine was quickly established for D that included support for her personal goal (to get up each day and do her PT) and E was free a few mornings to do simple errands or just relax. The success of the program in quality of life has been rewarding to observe, and from a system cost perspective, the fact that D and E are able to continue living in their own home, versus a forced move to assisted living, has saved thousands of dollars and will continue to do so as they go forward. 

Another example of the program impact is B, a 94 year-old woman living alone just a few miles from the E and D. She manages several chronic conditions, moderate dementia, and an ailing knee. CWOW provides 10 hours of support per week as well as the attention of the FCA team with bi-weekly calls and on call support. B has friends nearby who help from time to time and communicate with the CWOW team staying current with any changes in B’s situation. Critical to B’s support has been CWOWs policy to provide unscheduled aide visits if necessary. Recently, she reached out on a Sunday morning confused about her meds; she called her aide to ask what she should do.  The aide knew that B was frustrated and decided to drive to her home, review her new meds, and call the doctor-on-call service number to confirm the regimen and assure B that she was on the right meds.  Had CWOW not been available and intervened, B would likely have “taken the chance” and ended up with a trip to the emergency department - the negative outcome potential is massive in such a situation.

The final example pertains to a new patient in the program. She, like the others, is low-income but is not qualified for public assistance. Her adult daughter and son-in-law are her primary support. This is difficult at best as S has several chronic conditions and is morbidly obese due to that. When we explained our program and that we could provide some additional support for her including a Hoyer Lift-trained aide to help her in and out of bed for PT and to give her family a slight respite, she simply shed a tear and thanked us. Her goal is not to burden her family and to stay out of the hospital and rehab where she has been since November 2022. The staff facilitating the CWOW program looks forward to making that happen.


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St. Luke’s Penn Foundation (SLPF) has been able to relaunch its Impact Camp programming, Camp Crossroads, with the help of a $459,000 ARPA award from Bucks County.  Camp Crossroads exists for those ages 9-12 who have been impacted by substance use disorder in some way.  Camp offers them the opportunity to become more educated about substance use disorder, experience traditional camp activities, and meet peers who have similar stories. “It is such a joy to be a part of this journey to bring the healing power of camp to the youth in our community, especially to those who may are experiencing a lot of life at such a young age,” says Megan Yoder, Director of Programming. 

Since the start up in September, the camp has grown to reach 15 different campers from the area and is gearing up for another camp experience during the fourth weekend in March.         

One of the things Camp Crossroads focuses on is the power of stories.  The goal is to offer a space that is safe, honest, and accepting; ultimately curating opportunities for the campers to open up about what they may be experiencing.  A tradition that has been successful in creating this space is “Porch Time” where, after lights out, the counselors sit outside the cabin on the porch offering a time where campers may come join them for one-on-one conversations.  For the counselors, this has been one of the highlights as they get to listen and learn about the lives of the campers.  It also offers insight to how SLPF can best assist the camper outside of the camp weekend. 

Another tradition that has been adapted is the “Letter to Addiction.”  On Saturday evening, the campers are given a journal in which they are encouraged to put words to paper about their true feelings around substance use disorder. Sometimes they write a letter to the loved one who is actively walking through it, sometimes it’s a letter to “addiction” itself, and other times its just a gateway for them to recognize the emotions that they experience.  It ends with a time of sharing if the campers feel led, which has been a huge bonding agent as it creates a family-like atmosphere with the campers.  Although this time is a bit heavier and sometimes sad, it is a reminder that these campers are not alone in life.  Afterwards, the group heads out to the firepit where they celebrate each other and enjoy some s’mores. 

Since education is a big part of the weekend, Saturday mornings are dedicated to group sessions.   In these sessions, different topics relating to the 7 C’s of addiction (I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, I can’t cure it, BUT I can take care of myself by communicating my feelings, making good choices and celebrating myself) and emotional and mental health are covered.  Pulling from the resources that SLPF offers, different camp clinicians come out to lead these sessions to offer insight and a fresh perspective to the campers.  

After the group sessions, different therapeutic vendors get to spend the morning with the group.  Back in September, Roxy Dog Therapy brought three dogs out camp, where the campers got to hang out, play with and read to them.  In November, Maria Maneos from Brush with the Law joined, bringing her expertise of art. The campers had the chance to write their story on paper, rip it up into little pieces, and roll it into beads creating a bracelet.  A few of these campers took these home to give to their loved ones who are in addiction.  The January camp hosted Josh Robinson who turned the weekend into everything drums.  The campers absolutely loved their time learning from him, hearing his story, and building their own drum to take home to use as a therapeutic coping tool. 

Another highlight for many of the campers was the opportunity to participate in one of the adventure activities that Camp Men-O-Lan offers, the Giant Swing. This was a huge moment for them as the group got to watch and listen as they spoke words of encouragement, learned to communicate both their goals and their fears, and ultimately conquer those fears. 

In the short amount of time that the camp has been launched, Camp Crossroads staff have witnessed campers face their fears, be brave, open up, form friendships, and grow as people. Remarks Yoder, “Getting to do life with these campers for a short 40 hours brings its own challenges and its own joys.  It offers them something different. The campers really feel as though Camp Crossroads is their family and that is very empowering.”

Council of Southeast Pennsylvania, Inc. - 

PRO-ACT Family Resource Center

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The PRO-ACT Family Resource Center launched in 2022 in response to community feedback requesting programming aimed at families of individuals with substance use disorder.   As it considered those requests, and recognized the need, The Council of Southeast PA, Inc. (The Council) turned to key community partners to help make it possible: Bucks County Division of Human Services, as well as Foundations Community Partnership, and TODAY, Inc.

The idea for the project builds on programs The Council has long provided, Recovery Community Center programming and Certified Recovery Specialists programs, and expands the Southern Bucks Recovery Community Center (SBRCC) by designating a safe space for family and friends to find support. The Family Resource Center allows for friends and family members to embrace recovery through Family Education Programs, Family Support Groups, and Individual services geared toward helping families thrive.  The Council also wanted to expand Recovery Support Services to adults in recovery who are parenting young children. The Council was delighted to learn that they could apply for funding through Bucks County’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) process, and even more delighted to learn that they had been awarded funding.

Pennsylvania remains amid an opiate epidemic and is ranked first in the nation among overdose rates of young men (NCHS, 2020) and 3rd nationally in overdose deaths (Philadelphia Inquirer, 2020). Currently, the isolation caused by COVID coupled with the inability to access treatment and recovery supports has placed people with Substance Use Disorders (SUDs) at significantly higher risk for fatal overdose (Brooks et al., 2020). The impact of this disease is shared by individuals with SUD and with their family members, but, often, the available resources and supports aren’t as available to families.  There is a wide range of resources for individuals with SUD and a growing number available to families, however, families of individuals with SUD are often unaware of these resources or have only limited awareness, especially if they are early in the SUD journey with their loved one.

Recognizing this, Pennsylvania created a process through which adults who have been directly impacted by their own family member or loved one’s substance use disorder can obtain a credential to help them provides support for others – the Certified Family Recovery Specialist (CFRS). The CFRS shares their lived experience with other families to provide recovery support services and understands the stigma associated with substance use disorder and its impact on the family. A CFRS is trained to help families move into and through the recovery process.

The Family Resource Center is located at the Southern Bucks Recovery Community Center on Veterans Highway in Bristol.  The Center offers a variety of programming for families and friends of individuals in treatment, those who have not yet chosen to access treatment, individuals who have experienced an overdose, grandparents raising grandchildren due to parental SUD, and those in early recovery who may be learning new strategies for supporting their loved one.

 Programs offered include Family Recovery Support Services provided by a CFRS. Family and friends can learn to build and strengthen concrete skills necessary to sustain family recovery and wellness through:

•SMART Family and Friends Program:  through SMART Recovery and CRAFT Therapy (Community Reinforcement & Family Training) trained staff educate participants on the tools and strategies they need to support their loved one without supporting the addictive behavior.

•Family Education Program (FEP): a psychoeducational program offered to anyone over the age of 13 who is affected by someone else’s addiction. This is currently offered monthly at the Southern Bucks Family Resource Center and by The Council at Deep Run Presbyterian Church. Registration is required.

•Family Support Group: a regularly occurring family and friends support group where the facilitator guides participants in open discussion on topics related to recovery and the family.

•Reflect and Connect: a monthly presentation co-presented by a person in recovery and a family member.

“As a community, we know that Substance Use Disorder is a disease steeped in isolation, and we also know that connection and community are key components for recovery,” notes The Council’s Executive Director Jennifer King.  “We are grateful to Bucks County Human Services, TODAY, Inc., and Foundations Community Partnership for helping us create a space where families can reach out for help, learn skills and strategies to support their loved ones and to strengthen their own resiliency and responses.  The Family Resource Center is a supportive community, free of stigma and shame - a place of hope, and a place where Recovery can thrive.”    

For more information about the PRO-ACT Family Resource Center, email Maripat Huhn, CRS/CFRS, Family Program Coordinator, mhuhn@councilsepa.org or call the Information Line at 1-800-221-6333

Ivin's Outreach Center - Home Share Program

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The Ivins Outreach Center (IOC) strives every day to improve the quality of life for those within their neighboring communities with opportunities to be healthy, confident, connected, and secure regardless of age, income, or background.  The IOC is a community based non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization that has been mobilizing aid to youth, families, and older adults in crisis in Morrisville and surrounding communities since 2003.  One of their programs focuses on enabling seniors to age gracefully in their homes or apartments and remain engaged in their community through its “Staying Put in Lower Bucks” (SPLB) program. 

 The Staying Put in Lower Bucks program (SPLB) was launched in October of 2015 to assist Bucks County residents who appreciate their community as well as its resources and history. SPLB is driven by volunteers who provide services to give seniors and adults struggling with medical conditions which prohibit or limit their mobility, ability to drive, or ability to engage in social activities the practical means and social support to fully live their lives safely and confidently in their own homes.   This allows members continued support from the community they love and familiar connections including friends, church, doctors, hairdressers, and more.

 They have found, through the Staying Put program, that another major concern for the older adult community is the rising cost of living while on a fixed income and just the desire for companionship. As a result, the Ivins Outreach Center has been planning and developing a program, Home Share, to provide the older adult community the Home Share alternative. Home Share is a “revolution” that has been taking place across the nation including other counties in Pennsylvania, but no such program currently exists in Bucks County. With American Rescue Plan Act funding from Bucks County, IOC can build on their partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Aging and launch the Home Share program in this community.

It is estimated that seventy-two million “Baby Boomers” are turning 65 at the rate of 10,000 a day and one-third of them are struggling with where to live on fixed incomes like social security. Home Share (aka Shared Housing) can help meet this demand in a way that is both cost-effective and socially beneficial.

 The economics of Shared Housing are attractive as an increasing percentage of seniors are balancing mortgages and high rental costs with other living expenses.

Increases in the average life span will persist long after the “Baby Boom” generational bubble and communities are falling further behind in providing appropriate options for seniors. Creating an adequate supply of housing that adapts to support people throughout their life span is truly a permanent necessity.

Shared Housing can provide a source of income and access to non-medical support. This is an especially attractive option for seniors who wish to stay in their homes and have extra “house” to share and who may need companionship, caregiving support, or help with activities like cooking, shopping, and driving.

The tight rental markets and oversubscribed assistance programs create scarce housing choices for low-income residents of all ages. Shared Housing can offer housing for half the cost of a private apartment. Individuals who are willing to provide services such as cooking, shopping, and driving can expect to pay even less for shared housing.  

Ultimately, we will all care for ourselves and loved ones who are growing older and may be experiencing a loss of income, mobility, healthfulness, or social interaction. Our economic health requires that we find cost-effective solutions to a growing population of seniors in need; a program that will give older adults an opportunity to successfully age in place, delaying or avoiding unwanted relocation or institutionalization.  

 So, what is Home Share? This is an affordable housing choice that brings together a homeowner (provider) who has a room to spare and a person (seeker) who is looking for a place to live.  The provider and seeker each have a private bedroom, but both have full use of the rest of the provider’s home.  There are many benefits derived from such a housing strategy and there are many types of participants – for example, senior citizens, working professionals, students, individuals who cannot find affordable housing, single parents, or have reduced income because of a loss of full-time work – or those who simply want to share their lives and home with others.

 Benefits to the Home ProviderFor the home provider (who is most often a senior living alone), a home sharing arrangement offers companionship and socialization, a source of income or assistance with home maintenance, and an increased sense of security.  Having another person in the home, particularly at night, allows an older person to feel less vulnerable to crime as well as more emotionally secure in knowing another person is available in the event of a health or other emergency. To many home providers, rental income is secondary to companionship, a sense of safety, and help with chores as a reason for engaging in a home sharing arrangement.    

 Benefits to the Home Seeker:  With Bucks County rents being unattainable to many, home sharing gives home seekers an affordable room in a home atmosphere.  Many home sharers receive mutual benefits of companionship and security, the opportunity to help the home provider, and being able to save money, reduce debt, and keep housing and utility costs affordable.  

 Benefits to the Community:

1.  Home Maintenance:  There is association between advancing age and physical and mental frailty which can result in an individual’s inability to adequately maintain a home leading to its deterioration.  The financial, emotional, and supportive assistance benefits of a home sharing arrangement can mitigate this decline and help stabilize a community’s homes.

 2.  Affordable housing:  A home sharing program is an excellent housing alternative that can help ease the continual gap in many communities between the demand for affordable housing and the available supply of traditional affordable housing options.

 3.  Stabilized population:  The affordable rents for younger-aged home seekers and the financial/home assistance/social benefits for older home providers help keep both of these populations remaining in the community with positive impacts on labor pools, institutional health-care costs, and sense of community.  The thoroughness of a home sharing program’s protocols and processes managed by The Ivins Outreach Center would greatly reduce the opportunity for victimization of either the home provider or the home seeker providing a safe community housing alternative for residents.

 The Role of The Ivins Outreach CenterThe IOC will develop and facilitate the process of matching home providers and home seekers.  This will be done through an application process for both providers and seekers.  During the application interviews, the IOC staff will determine the likes and dislikes of both the provider and the seeker and endeavor to maximize the compatibility of the sharers.  The process will include home visits, interviews, checking references, conducting criminal and child abuse background checks, and, finally, proposing a match.   Following an introductive meeting, The IOC will provide an opportunity for a short trial period (such as a week) for the provider and seeker to live together which can help them decide if they are well-matched.  When the provider and seeker decide to enter into the home sharing arrangement, they will complete and sign a home sharing agreement which provides a clear outline of what is expected of the provider and of the seeker and is designed to circumvent potential future disagreements.  Both parties will have input into the terms of the agreement thus customizing the agreement to fit the needs and desires of the sharing participants.   The IOC program staff will be available to help negotiate any areas of disagreement, provide ongoing support during the term of the agreement, and connect the participants to other community resources.

 Who Is Eligible? Older adults, persons with disabilities, veterans, working professionals, college students, individuals at-risk of homelessness, single parents, or people simply wishing to share their lives and homes with others. 

Home Share participants must be at least 18 years old and those providing housing must own their home (not rent).

 Ivins Outreach Center is very excited to be partnering with the Bucks County Area Agency on Aging and the Pennsylvania Department on Aging and expect to have this program fully launched by Spring 2023.

 If you are interested in learning more about Home Share, in sharing your home with another, or seeking to share someone’s home, please contact the Ivins Outreach Center Home Share Counselor at 215-428-0500.                                    

 

NOVA - Forensic Nursing Program

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NOVA (Network of Victim Assistance) is the only comprehensive victim service organization in Bucks County that provides a continuum of care including forensic nursing, the Child Advocacy Center (CAC), trauma counseling, victim advocacy and a large prevention education program with a focus on personal safety. NOVA was granted $150,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding from the County of Bucks to support the Forensic Nursing Program.  The forensic nurses funded, in party, by the ARPA program conduct medical-forensic exams for victims of sexual assault and interpersonal violence (IPV) including non-fatal strangulation in a gender-inclusive, victim-centered, and trauma-informed manner. This 24/7 program currently consists of 20 specialized forensic nurses The objective is to be able to respond and conduct medical forensic exams 24/7 in five of the local hospitals. 

 The goal of this project is to maintain a cohort of fully trained forensic nurses. During 2022 alone, NOVA has increased staffing from 5 part-time nurses to 20 nurses by year end. This increase in staffing has allowed NOVA to ensure full coverage overage resulting in an increase of the number of exams successfully being conducted. One significant outcome of this program will be an increased number of individuals given access to medical forensic services that are being performed by trauma-informed nurses resulting in a decrease of PTSD symptoms.

 Patients who receive an exam from a Forensic Nurse Examiner (FNE), a nurse specially trained in the provision of patient-centered, trauma-informed forensic care, experience better health and prosecutorial outcomes compared to those who receive exams from an untrained provider. An FNE receives over 40 hours of specialized training in collecting evidence and photographing injuries. The FNE asks for consent throughout each step of the exam. The rate of PTSD symptoms and physical or emotional issues is shown to be much lower when an exam is conducted by a trained FNE.

 This funding allows medical forensic services to be provided in five hospitals (Jefferson Bucks, Lower Bucks, Doylestown Hospital, St. Mary’s, and Grandview) throughout the County resulting in greater accessibility for all underserved communities. These services are available at no cost to any victim ultimately eliminating any barriers for low-income individuals. The services are designed to use a trauma-informed and victim-centered approach promoting the rights and dignity of each patient regardless of their race, gender, or income, etc.

  As of November 2022, NOVA has been able to maintain 100% coverage.  Currently the nurses conduct IPV exams at Grandview Hospital and it is anticipated that, in the latter half of 2023, NOVA will have the ability to perform these exams at all five of the Bucks County hospitals that they serve.

 Sexual violence affects 1 in 3 women during their lifetime.   These medical forensic exams administered by FNEs are provided to individuals aged 14 and up throughout Bucks County regardless of race/ethnicity, gender, or socioeconomic status. Sexual violence and interpersonal violence are major public health concerns in the community and, in addition to exams, forensic nurses are trained to recommend medications for STIs and HIV for any victim.  During the period of August 1st through November 30th, 2022, 32 victims consisting of 30 female and 2 male patients received forensic services at the hospital. The average age was 28 years of age and the race/ethnicity consisted of White (75%), Black (9.4%), Multiracial (6.3%), and Hispanic (3.2%).   

 With the help of ARPA funds, more victims will be able to receive the support, services, and preventative medications they need as well as provide expert comprehensive forensic exams, collection of forensic evidence, and collaboration with law enforcement working together as a multidisciplinary team.  When working with law enforcement and the district attorney’s office, FNE’s are able to provide expert testimony that can be used in a court of law to apprehend or prosecute perpetrators that commit violent and abusive acts.    

 If you or someone you know is a victim of violence or abuse and needs help, call 1-800-675-6900 anytime day or night.  

 

A Woman's Place - Expansion of Complex Therapy and Support Programs for Domestic Violence Survivors

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Domestic violence is a societal issue seemingly without end. In fact, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 8 men will experience physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.  26% of children living in the US have witnessed acts of domestic violence before the age of 18*, and worldwide, there are 275 million** children growing up in homes where domestic violence is present. While these are staggering statistics about the impact of DV on those experiencing it, the cost to society is equally staggering. Intimate partner violence costs the US 9.3 billion dollars per year in healthcare, lost wages, and productivity impact as well as law enforcement and legal costs*.  With an issue so large, how do we as a community tackle it?

 A Woman’s Place (AWP), Bucks County’s only domestic violence response organization, has been in business since 1976 when the doors opened to a mother and two children seeking shelter from domestic abuse. In Bucks County, this was a significant first step in addressing the issue and, for 46 years, the work of A Woman’s Place has focused on addressing domestic violence at the community level.

Most people familiar with AWP know it as the organization that provides a hotline and shelter for those in danger from their abusers, but, over its long tenure, the organization has expanded to serve tens of thousands of people seeking support from abuse as well as those desiring to understand it and learn how to end it for good.

Through AWP’s trauma-informed, client-centered empowerment model, the organization continues to offer shelter to more than 60 adults and 59 children per year, but they also do so much more. The organization runs a 24/7 hotline for those in crisis from abuse. This is the entry point into the organization where someone can find a friendly, calm voice on the end of the line and be connected to shelter, counseling, and therapy services for adults and children, legal support for both protection from abuse (PFA) and the criminal process, legal representation for PFA, divorce, custody and child support, housing information for the rapid rehousing program, and referral to other organizations and agencies throughout the county.

In addition to services for those experiencing abuse, the organization has a comprehensive prevention education program reaching children from 4th through 12th grade. By reaching children early and focusing on self-esteem, healthy boundaries, and productive conflict resolution, AWP can focus on breaking the cycle of violence moving into adulthood.  Recently, AWP’s education offerings expanded to the college setting as well; women ages 18 to 24 are the group most vulnerable to domestic abuse.

 In addition to working with more than 6,000 students last year, AWP launched a medical education program focused on healthcare settings to understand, identify, and support victims of abuse. This training is crucial to providing care to those who may not think of themselves as victims and in getting people the help they need before it might be too late.

Thanks to support from Bucks County’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, AWP has been able to sustain programming for the counseling and therapy program, as well as provide addition shelter dollars to those in danger. Through this ARPA grant of $73,600, AWP has maintained the services of a licensed therapist and has supported her training in “Eye Movement, Desensitization, and Reprocessing” or EMDR training. This groundbreaking therapeutic approach has shown great promise with those experiencing significant trauma, such as being the victim of domestic abuse. Through the process, clients learn to detach themselves from their trauma and work through it so that they can heal and move forward. This also provides them with the opportunity to learn from the trauma and hopefully break the cycle of abuse for themselves and their children.  Last year, AWP provided more than 11,000 counseling and therapy hours to survivors and their children through crisis counseling, trauma therapy, and children’s programming.

In addition to therapy funding, the grant focuses on providing money for alternative housing for the periods where the shelter is at full capacity, but because of the level of danger, the individual must be placed somewhere safe like a hotel. These funds have also been used in the case of COVID exposure or illness as well.

Through funding from Bucks County, the state, and federal resources, as well as partnerships with area organizations like BCOC, United Way, Family Services, and others, AWP can serve more than 2300 people annually with crisis response and educate close to 7000 through prevention education efforts. 

  • *Source: National Network to End Domestic Violence Fact Sheet, May 2022
  • **Source: UNICEF, 2006 Report

Buxmont Academy – Chromebooks for Students

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Buxmont Academy is a group of 6 private academic licensed alternative educational programs for troubled and at-risk youth in eastern Pennsylvania. There are approximately 130 students, grades 6 to 12, struggling with a wide range of behavioral and emotional challenges including learning difficulties, drug and alcohol abuse, legal problems, family problems, impulsive or aggressive behavior, lack of self-esteem, mental health issues, ADD/ADHD, oppositional defiance disorder, sexual, physical, or emotional abuse, truancy, school suspensions, and expulsions.

 Buxmont Academy's goal for the Sellersville location, via ARPA funding, was to provide Chromebooks to 18 students to enhance their learning experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Bucks County awarded $6,350 to Buxmont Academy for the purchase of the Chromebooks.

 Representatives from Bucks County Human Services had the opportunity to visit Buxmont Academy’s Sellersville location to observe the great work being done by the staff and students alike.  A genuine community atmosphere is fostered at Buxmont and it shines through.  The students, who gave us a tour of the facility and explained what a typical day was like there, seemed to really appreciate the “norms” (a more positive term for “rules”), the staff, the education they are getting, the arts programming, and the culture of the school.  

 The Chromebooks purchased allowed the students of Buxmont Academy to pivot to a broader spectrum of consistent school-wide virtual educational services as all students are able to use the same equipment.  The Chromebooks also allow students who cannot attend school for medical, or other, reasons to participate in classes virtually so as not to miss important lessons and fall behind in their work.  

 As part of the use of the Chromebooks, the students help create and abide by a set of “Norms” which indicate how the equipment is to be cared for and used responsibly.   Also, the Chromebooks only go home with students if they cannot attend class in person due to illness or some other approved reason.  

 Buxmont Academy’s ARPA-funded Chromebooks for Students project has impacted its students in such a positive way and Bucks County Human Services is proud to support such an initiative. 

 

Lenape Valley Foundation - Improving Residential Facilities

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Lenape Valley Foundation (LVF), a provider of mental health and related services to over 14,000 people each year, received $183,842 in ARPA funding to support renovations to 15 residential locations (apartments and single houses) in Bucks County. Supporting 45 people each year, LVF’s Residential Programs provide safe and stable housing to adults living with severe and persistent mental illness.

The funding was used to improve the quality of housing that supports this vulnerable population by renovating 8 two-bedroom apartments, including new flooring, interior painting, two new kitchens and 8 new bathrooms.  LVF also furnished 12 apartments and 2 group living homes with bedroom furniture that can be easily cleaned and refinished/restored if damaged. 

Bathrooms were completely remodeled with wall repairs, new flooring, vanities and sinks, showers/tubs, and toilets. Kitchens were also renovated with new kitchen cabinets, backsplash, dishwasher, refrigerator, stove, microwaves, and washer/dryer units. New furnishings were provided to 34 bedrooms and included new beds, mattresses, bureaus, nightstands, desks, and chairs. 


YMCA - Operation Compassion Recovery

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Bucks County Supports YMCA’s Operation Compassion Recovery with ARPA Funds

 Representatives from the Bucks County Human Services Division is happy to spotlight YMCA of Bucks and Hunterdon Counties and their program, Operation Compassion Recovery (OCR): Supporting Vulnerable Families with Children and Youth. The YMCA received ARPA funding from Bucks County and we were able to see, firsthand, how it is making a meaningful difference for children and youth from low to moderate income families. At the Y’s Morrisville childcare location, more than 90% of the children are receiving aid and would not have access to these services without contributed support. Through OCR: Supporting Vulnerable Families with Children and Youth, vulnerable children in Morrisville and throughout YMCA programs in Bucks County have access to an expanded food program (hot meals and snacks); access to safe, high quality early childhood and school age education programs; and STEM academic enrichment that allows for advanced learning. 

“The food program gives me peace of mind,” said Paula Carrie, a parent from the Morrisville YMCA childcare program. “I don’t have to worry. I know [my son] will be eating at school. I can’t imagine the YMCA program without the food program.” 

 Since the school year began, YMCA of Bucks and Hunterdon Counties has provided over $350,000 in childcare financial assistance to over 200 low-to-moderate income families in Bucks County.

 “Families whose income lands just above the state subsidy threshold for assistance often still cannot afford quality care for their children,” said Debbie Sontupe, chief development officer for the YMCA. “ARPA funds help the YMCA fill that gap, allowing families to afford childcare and continue to work to support their families.” 

 Operation Compassion Recovery is ensuring that while in YMCA programs, children have access to STEM and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) materials and instruction. To help offset and exceed COVID-19 learning loss, newly purchased STEM and STEAM learning supplies are being implemented throughout the association’s education and care programs.

 “The kits lead school age children through the building of simple toys and machines, demonstrating how things work,” pointed out Ryan Hazelett, VP of childcare for the Y. “Open-ended play materials like blocks, Legos® and large-sized colorful connectors stimulate imagination and creativity, while teaching principles like gravity, and cause-and-effect.”

 “The Bucks County ARPA support has allowed the YMCA’s Operation Compassion Recovery to comprehensively benefit children and families in our community who need the Y the most,” said Zane Moore, president/CEO of YMCA of Bucks and Hunterdon Counties. “Providing healthy, hot meals for children, helping families afford childcare, and increasing access to learning address key indicators of future success. As these children continue to develop and learn, they have a better shot at academic success, and accomplishing their own life goals as they grow into healthy adults who can positively impact their communities.”

 To learn more about YMCA of Bucks and Hunterdon Counties, stop by your local branch, or visit www.ymcabucks.org .


Bucks County Opportunity Council - HELP Center

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The Bucks County Opportunity Council (BCOC) received $197,132 in ARPA funds to create an in-person food shopping area for the Healthy Eating and Living Partnership (HELP) Center.

Already a leader in addressing food insecurity, BCOC plans, with the added funding, to increase the output of its food distribution by 20 percent over two years. Food insecurity impacts more than 44,000 Bucks County residents, more than a third of whom are children.

To increase convenience and flexibility for food recipients, BCOC also added online and pick-up services during the pandemic.

The Opportunity Council has been in operation for more than 55 years and has been a key partner with the county in helping to lift residents out of poverty and achieve self-sufficiency.

No Longer Bound- Bristol Education Center

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Bucks County granted $387,703 in ARPA funds to No Longer Bound to build out programming at the Bristol Education Center in Bristol Township. The group has put those funds toward hiring a site coordinator and program facilitators, as well as toward the costs of general operations.

No Longer Bound is dedicated to helping young people and their caregivers develop a foundation of healthy social-emotional skills with a focus on repairing relationships, fixing harmful situations, and healing from adversity and trauma.

In a partnership with the Bristol Education Center, No Longer Bound aims to create a safe space for community members to thrive through educational opportunities and programs that bridge learning gaps.

St. Luke’s Penn Foundation- Camp Crossroads

Camp Crossroads

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St. Luke’s Penn Foundation is expanding operations using $459,155 in ARPA funds to grow its Camp Crossroads program

Serving children ages 7-12 with a family history of substance abuse, Camp Crossroads will add staff, including a full-time camp director, as it plans new programming for children and adolescents with mental and developmental disorders.

The organization strives to provide a traditional summer camp experience, while also creating a positive impact on the lives of youth who have a family history of substance abuse.

They accomplish this goal by hiring positive adult role models, offering week-long active programming, and creating a safe and loving space for each camper.

Since 1955, St. Luke’s Penn Foundation has been serving members of the community who struggle with mental health or substance related issues.

Ivins Outreach- Educational Programming Expansion and Home Share Program

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Already serving over 1500 students, Ivins Outreach, in partnership with Morrisville Borough School District, hopes to address disparities in education by growing its capacity and providing its wide range of services to up to 3500 children, young adults and seniors.

By utilizing $597,185 in ARPA funds, Ivins Outreach says it can meet its goal by hiring more licensed teachers and tutors which will allow the group to expand its schedule while still providing a personalized learning environment. The organization is also in the process of expanding academic and social-emotional learning (SEL) services.

Along with staffing changes, Ivins Outreach is also using $199,950 in ARPA funds to boost the Home Share program. This program will match vulnerable house-rich cash-poor seniors with working younger individuals looking for affordable housing opportunities in the county.

Ivins Outreach is committed to addressing issues arising in young people and seniors as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic including removal from regular interactions and lack of work which has led to social-emotional underdevelopment and financial difficulties.

At the same time, many seniors had concerns about losing their home and moving to an affordable nursing home which in many places became impossible due to lack of availability during the pandemic.