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DHS News Newsletter May 2009

May 2009

Two OCR staff praised for work on OBH event

Karen L. Blumen, DHS Deputy Director, Office of Community Relations (OCR), recently received an email from Kim Falk, Evaluation Specialist, DHS Office of Behavioral Health (OBH) about the work of two staff members in OCR.

“I’d like to share my observations about Renelda Colvin and her work for the System of Care Initiative Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day event on May 16, 2009.” Falk wrote. “I was the lead evaluator for the event and on the planning committee. Renelda has worked very hard since the 2008 event to insure that SOCI family and community feedback was consistently obtained and represented in planning and the development of activities and materials.

“While there were many challenges with the logistics of this event, Renelda worked hard to draw people together to resolve issues and continuity.  Over the last few weeks, she has worked many additional hours planning this and the Bust It [see April 2009 issue of DHS NEWS] event.  I have observed her on multiple occasions maintaining composure under intense pressure.  Her performance last Saturday was particularly impressive considering the rainy weather, a bus company [that] did not make good on their promise to arrive at a certain time, and the management of staff, volunteers and simultaneous activities with families and children on three floors. 

“While my knowledge is mainly about Renelda’s work, Meredith Viccari [Graphic Designer, OCR] also worked diligently to make this event the success that it was!”

Allegheny Link praised for expediting assistance

Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato recently received a letter complimenting the Allegheny Link to Aging and Disability Resources in the DHS Office of Community Relations and two of its staff.

The letter, which follows, speaks for itself.

“We would like to take this opportunity to applaud two of Allegheny County's Allegheny Link employees, Mara Schwabenbauer and Johnna Kerner.

“My neighbor [name removed] suffers from Grand Mal epilepsy. At age 23, he has to deal with the challenges of doing construction when he may have a seizure at any time. Because of his illness, he cannot drive. Earlier this year he suffered from two severe burns and broken ribs because of seizures. Alan applied to the Department of Public Welfare for assistance a year ago but was refused. The reason was unclear.

“I learned of Allegheny Link and contacted them. Mara Schwabenbauer, Intake/Registration Specialist, told me to expect a call within a day from a program specialist. Johnna Kerner called a day later for information as to the situation [sic]. Within two weeks Alan had scrip, dental, food stamps and medical assistance.

“On Alan's behalf I had contacted DPW at the same time as calling Allegheny Link. I was told that they were busy and to call back another time.

“The contrast between the two agencies was striking. Mara and Johnna were not only professional but also showed care and concern for Alan's plight.

“Government is so often the object of derision. However our experience with Allegheny Link was outstanding. This is an agency that you and residents of Allegheny County can be proud of.
Thank you Allegheny Link, Mara and Johnna.”

SET, Children’s Team work together to dance away stress

On Saturday, May 23, the North Side office of the DHS Office of Behavioral Health (OBH) System of Care Initiative’s Starting Early Together (SET) celebrated Children’s Mental Health Awareness month in West Park (near the National Aviary) by “Dancing Our Stress Away.”

According to SET Community Organizer Deborah A. Starling-Pollard, “we had people from all over Pittsburgh join in on the line dancing fun (broadening awareness of mental health).  We distributed literature about our program and other DHS programs, as well as information provided by representatives from Re: solve, Center for Traumatic Stress and AMACHI Pittsburgh (mentorship program).  There were wonderful activities for children from Carnegie Museum of Natural History and our own Children’s Team through DHS.”

Starling-Pollard also wanted to highlight the “outstanding efforts from the Children’s Team [also in OBH].  They provided creative balloons, face painting, a Sponge Bob celebrity and warm smiles to families that stopped at their table. You guys are amazing!  Your positivity and willingness to join us added value to a special day celebrating the importance of children with emotional challenges. On behalf of the SET staff at the North Side Starting Early Together office, we express our sincere gratitude and look forward to working with you again, real soon.”

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