Poughkeepsie… As part of the 2006 Executive Budget, County Executive William R. Steinhaus has funded a number of new initiatives intended to promote healthy lifestyles for youth, skilled care giving for babies and children, and a comprehensive system of care for the County’s birth to age 4 population who may be at risk for foster care placement or abuse and maltreatment.
“There is nothing more important than taking care of the needs of our youngest, most vulnerable population. County government already offers a large array of supportive services and preventative programs through our Health and Human Services Departments, including the Youth Bureau, Social Services, Probation, Mental Hygiene and Health Departments,” said County Executive Steinhaus. “For 2006, I have been able to strengthen existing programs, and add new ones with modest investments of dollars that I believe will achieve better outcomes for our children, as well as potential long term savings for our taxpayers.”
As part of his commitment to children’s health, Steinhaus is expanding the very successful, comprehensive Tobacco Use Prevention as well as the Childhood Obesity programs for young people with an allocation of $525,000. “This is part of our Children’s Health Initiative (CHI) I created in 1999. CHI funded services discourage our youth from smoking and work to increase their healthy eating/exercise behaviors. Using researched-based, effective prevention strategies and survey data to measure impact, CHI has already achieved success with our middle school students and teens.” It brings the county’s funding commitment to date with the Children’s Services Council to an impressive total of nearly $3 million!
Also added to the 2006 Executive Budget is a new Early Childhood Coordinated Children’s Services Initiative in the amount of $71,000 to create a comprehensive system of care for the County’s early childhood population. This new initiative is supported by Commissioner of Social Services, Robert Allers, by County Legislator Marcus Molinaro and by the Dutchess County Zero to Three Partnership. It is expected that under the leadership of Dr. James McGuirk, Executive Director of Astor Home for Children, the Early Childhood Coordinated Children’s Services Initiative will provide necessary service coordination for infants and children, birth through four years old, who are at risk for foster care placement or abuse and maltreatment.
“Every dollar invested in quality early childhood programming saves a community up to seventeen dollars in reduced special education costs, mental health treatment, juvenile justice and child welfare services,” stated Legislator Marcus Molinaro. “This initiative will aide children who are at risk for foster care placement, and/or abuse and maltreatment. This increased partnership will support the ongoing effort of so many caring and dedicated individuals already working everyday to protect and prepare our young children.”
The goals for the multi-agency project will be increased access for families to community based preventive services; improved, effective coordination of services with the families’ active participation; decreased referrals to our social services system; and identification of gaps or barriers in the current child development system.
In addition, the Steinhaus budget includes new resources of $35,000 for a Healthy Baby/Safe Baby public education campaign. “I believe this effort can spread life saving information for new parents and caregivers on quality childcare guidelines and how to avoid physical harm to babies through inappropriate handling by caregivers. It will include a media component to raise awareness on the harm of shaken baby syndrome for any adults involved with young children: grandparents, neighbors, friends, babysitters as well as parents,” said Steinhaus. Brochures printed in English and Spanish will reach over 10,000 families and caregiver with information on critical health related issues for children.
The Executive Budget for 2006 will fund a new DC Youth Gang Prevention Initiative. Steinhaus stated, “I have set aside $115,000 for a program where I plan to use our Youth Bureau and County Workforce Investment Board (WIB) resources and proven collaborative experience in working with youth and various sectors to build a community approach to reduce local youth gang involvement and youth violence.” This initiative will support youth programming that provides an alternative, safe culture and incorporates the nationally identified effective youth gang prevention strategies of mentoring with caring adults, linkages to support services, work readiness skills development, internships and career exploration. The recent City of Poughkeepsie’s Juvenile Violent Crime Needs Assessment identifies “collaboration and unity” as a priority in addressing youth violent crime.
Steinhaus noted, “Family Court Judge Peter Forman has indicated a need for additional resources to support Dutchess County Family Court’s drug treatment program which has already shown promising results. Therefore I have funded a new case manager for the Children Services Division in Social Services as well as another Probation Officer to work with young people who are JDs or PINS. The ultimate goal for specialized courts is to maintain the individuals in treatment and decrease their criminal justice involvement in the long term, which can ultimately save lives and save money. It’s definitely worth the investment.”
Steinhaus concluded, “These comprehensive policies and budget allocations are designed to put in place stronger and more effective efforts to ensure our children grow up healthy.”