DHS News June 2012 | DHS News June 2012
The LGBTQ Council
In 2012, DHS established the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning) Advisory Council. The Council – which is comprised of service providers, consumers and community members – is designed to identify the needs of the LGBTQ community, to serve as a communication channel between DHS and the public, and to share solutions and best practices.
The idea of a council arose in 2009 when a group of community members approached DHS director Marc Cherna concerning how well the department was addressing the needs of LGBTQ residents. From this discussion, a work group comprised of DHS staff was formed. This internal work group examined each area and performed best practices research before presenting their recommendations to senior staff. The creation of an advisory council was the primary recommendation, as the council could inform additional work and research that needed to be done.
While the LGBTQ Advisory Council has only been in existence for a few months, they have already begun outreach efforts around Pittsburgh. In early June, both DHS staff and Council members set up a table at the 2012 Pittsburgh Pride Festival to distribute information on DHS services and LGBTQ rights. During the event, Council members surveyed attendees on their familiarity with DHS services and their experiences while receiving services.
On June 13, the Council held its first town hall meeting to discuss community needs. Representatives from various DHS programs – including the Area Agency on Aging (AAA); Mental Health Services; Justice Related Services; Office of Children, Youth and Families (CYF); Homeless Services; the Director’s Action Line (DAL); and the Office of Intellectual Disability (OID) – spoke to town hall participants about available services. After the information session, community members were able to speak with the office representatives to express their thoughts and concerns.
“The response to the town hall meeting was positive,” said Megan Good, co-facilitator of the Council. “The people we spoke to expressed that they were excited that such a meeting was happening, and glad to see that DHS is open to feedback, receptive to new ideas, and taking steps to improve accessibility.”
The LGBTQ Advisory Council holds regular meetings that are open to the public for observation. In addition, county residents are welcome to participate in the Council’s three subcommittees: Outreach Committee – to review current DHS outreach efforts, make recommendations for improvement and conduct outreach on behalf of the Council; Needs Assessment Committee – to assess the current needs of the community and the capacity of local providers to meet those needs; and Cultural Competence Committee – to inform the priorities and methods for DHS to improve cultural competency through training and education of staff and providers.
To learn more about the Council’s work, ask questions or join the mailing list, please visit LGBTQ Advisory Council webpage or email DHS-LGBTQ@alleghenycounty.us.
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