Monmouth County, together with the Human Services Advisory Council and nonprofit service organizations across the county, has launched Monmouth ACTS (Assisting Community Through Services).
Monmouth ACTS is described as a public-private initiative to promote and enhance access to human services. Its formation comes as a response to a Monmouth County Human Services Needs Assessment that was undertaken in late 2016, according to county officials.
“When we examined the needs of the community, we also wanted to examine the service providers that were out there, what services we had and what we still need,” Monmouth County Freeholder Sue Kiley said during a press conference in Freehold Township on June 11. “Through the study, we found that Monmouth County residents are really struggling.”
The assessment report, “A Call to Action,” examined the county’s human services gaps and determined a road map for improvement to desired conditions that would serve county residents more effectively.
“We found out many county residents struggle to have their basic needs met,” said Kiley, who is the Board of Freeholders liaison to the Health and Human Services Division.
“Challenges such as addiction, mental health needs, homelessness and food insecurity have become more commonplace, with many people feeling isolated and unable to find the right path for help,” she said.
“Through Monmouth ACTS, community groups are now working together to improve access, achieve social change and address specific problems. Working together, county nonprofit organizations, along with the resources of the county, are now offering services in a cooperative way instead of working in isolated silos. This approach is already streamlining processes and access to care and is producing productive outcomes,” Kiley said.
Since “A Call to Action” was presented in 2017, the Monmouth ACTS Steering Committee began examining the needs and challenges of serving particular populations and service areas, according to county officials.
Subcommittees focusing on eight key issues, or “hubs,” were formed to share information, examine subject matter, and examine policies and recommendations on how to streamline information between entities that cover numerous topics of importance to residents.
The hubs are early childhood success; positive youth development; aging; homelessness; transportation; financial empowerment; mental health and addictions; and communications.
“It is our ultimate desire to provide residents with easier access to human services and answer their behavioral health questions,” Kiley said. “It can be difficult to determine which way to turn, so it is the goal of Monmouth ACTS to provide residents one access point, www.MonmouthACTS.org, for a myriad of services.”
Ginger Mulligan, vice chairwoman of the Human Services Advisory Council, said, “Part of the structure was to look at (the service) holistically so we are concentrating as much on personal safety, financial stability and high-quality education as well as on good health and well-being.”
Brookdale Community College President David Stout, who was previously a professor at the college, said, “As a result of the work I was doing in the classroom, I felt that I needed to be more connected with the services happening within Monmouth County.”
Stout said Brookdale, which is the county college of Monmouth County, has partnered with the county to help address the needs of college students who may be in need of food, housing, medical care, transportation or child care services.
He said that during 2018, “We developed an academic master plan around this idea of being able to provide services, but we knew we didn’t have the internal resources for us to be able to do this alone.
“We reached out to Monmouth County again and were fortunate to have Freeholder Kiley become the liaison for human and social services at that time … We decided there were some resources we could pull in from the county.
“… Over the last few months, we have been very fortunate to bring social worker Sylvina Mendez to campus … Her dedication and perseverance are evident in all that she does. She is transforming lives through her work at Brookdale and she is making them better … Through an innovative partnership with the county’s Division of Social Services, she now has office hours two days a week at our Lincroft campus.
“… Sylvina’s presence at Brookdale expands the Division of Social Services’ reach to underserved communities. Her extensive knowledge of county agencies and nonprofit organizations enables her to make connections for our students in need and their families … Helping our students to attain their degree means they will be in a better position to succeed,” Stout said.