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POUGHKEEPSIE — Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro announced his selection of Toni-Marie Ciarfella as Dutchess County’s first Deputy Commissioner for Special Needs at a press conference this morning held at the Arc of Dutchess. As Deputy Commissioner, Ms. Ciarfella will serve as an advocate for individuals and families with special needs and abilities. This newly created position is believed to be the first of its kind in New York State and is a critical component of County Executive Molinaro’s “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” initiative, which seeks to change the way individuals, businesses, organizations and communities relate to neighbors with special needs.
“This new Deputy Commissioner for Special Needs position is an integral part of how we continue to ThinkDIFFERENTLY in Dutchess County; serving as a coordinator for county services, an organizer to bring community agencies together for common goals, and an advocate for individuals and families with special abilities who need a voice. This position requires a unique blend of talent, expertise, education and compassion; we are fortunate to have found that in Toni-Marie Ciarfella,” said County Executive Molinaro. “We are excited to have Toni join our team and getting her started on the focused goal of improving the quality of life for individuals of all abilities.”
Dutchess County conducted an extensive recruitment for the Deputy Commissioner for Special Needs and received an impressive applicant response. Ms. Ciarfella was selected from a pool of more than 50 applicants.
Ms. Ciarfella joins Dutchess County Government with more than 30 years of experience serving individuals with special needs and abilities. She began her career at the Children’s Home of Poughkeepsie serving as a Senior Child Care Worker. She went on to work for Greystone Programs, Green Briar Adult Home and Vassar Brothers Medical Center. In 1989, she began a tenure that spanned more than 20 years with the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (Taconic DDSO) in a variety of positions of increasing responsibility, with her last position as being the Treatment Team Leader for Campus & Community Connections and District Forensic Liaison. In that role, Ms. Ciarfella was responsible for policy development, implementation, training and compliance. She led an inter-disciplinary team of professionals that implemented “person-centered” planning and community partnerships. Most recently, she has served as the Director of Field Education for the Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program at Marist College. During this time her areas of interest and research collaborations focused on undergraduate social work education and field safety. Ms. Ciarfella has presented at both national and state level professional conferences. Over her career she has also worked closely with a variety of community agencies, including those that serve people with special needs.
Ms. Ciarfella is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker through the NYS Department of Education and has earned graduate degrees from Marist College (Master of Public Administration) and from SUNY Albany (Master of Social Work). She is currently completing her post-graduate work at SUNY Albany to earn her Ph.D. from the School of Social Welfare. Ms. Ciarfella is a member of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
The Deputy Commissioner for Special Needs is a high level administrative and managerial position responsible for evaluating, planning, initiating, coordinating and monitoring the wide range of programs designed to help individuals and families with special needs. As Deputy Commissioner, Ms. Ciarfella will work closely with the various community agencies and county departments that provide services and resources for residents with disabilities and special needs, including the Departments of Behavioral and Community Health; Community and Family Services; Office for the Aging; and Public Works.
“I am honored County Executive Molinaro had the foresight to create this position for Dutchess County and grateful that he has selected me for this position. I look forward to taking on this new challenge,” said Ms. Ciarfella. “This position is a valuable opportunity for Dutchess County, for the people with special needs, their families and the provider community. It also is an opportunity to build on our county’s existing successes through new collaborations here in Dutchess County and with other communities throughout New York State who wish to be a part of the ThinkDIFFERENTLY initiative. I am so proud of Dutchess County’s insight to create this position, the support that has come from this community for this position’s creation and for all the good work that is already occurring. I am thrilled to be a part of this team and to bring those efforts to a new level of awareness.”
The #ThinkDIFFERENTLY initiative is being adopted by communities across New York State. The New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) Board of Directors, on which he serves, unanimously passed a resolution to promote the “Think DIFFERENTLY” initiative in all 62 counties in New York State. Additionally, the County Executive has encouraged every city, town and village in New York to consider adopting “Think DIFFERENTLY” resolutions that promote supportive environments for residents of all abilities. More than 30 communities throughout the state have adopted resolutions since July. As Deputy Commissioner for Special Needs, Ms. Ciarfella will continue to develop the network of communities across New York State and facilitate the exchange of ideas to help make all communities more responsive to the needs of individuals of all abilities.
Ms. Ciarfella will officially begin serving as Deputy Commissioner on September 12th, 2016.