More than 30 representatives from organizations dealing with social challenges in southeastern Fairfax County gathered Tuesday for the Route 1 Task Force’s first meeting of 2006.
Chaired by Anne Andrews, the informal task force discussed such diverse topics as Virginia’s efforts to supplement Medicare Part D’s prescription drug program, the newly initiated hypothermia shelter program at Rising Hope United Methodist Mission Church, affordable housing advocacy and financing, and other activities geared to health and human services.
Two topics given special attention were Fairfax County’s psychiatric patient detention program and the Youth Initiative Program being undertaken jointly by United Community Ministries and the county Department of System Management for Human Resources. The southeastern office of the latter is located in the Government Center on Richmond Highway and directed by Ken Disselkoen.
Dr. Nooreddin Mirmirani and Dr. Paul Luisada, practicing physicians and members of Inova Mount Vernon Hospital’s Psychiatry Department, discussed the need to improve services in the handling and treatment of the county’s psychiatric detention patients. The county deals with approximately 800 such patients per year, according to Mirmirani.
The primary problem is the housing and transportation of such patients to and from hospital detention for legal hearings. Mirmirani suggested that a new facility be constructed next to IMVH where medical treatment is readily available. “We could manage 90 percent of all detention patients in the county,” he said.
“The best thing about partnering with UCM is their ability to do outreach to the entire community. This program isn’t about just putting up posters. It’s about establishing a relationship with families,” Disselkoen said, explaining the joint youth initiative program between his office and United Community Ministries.
“We have formed a coordinated program with both schools and the police. We are not talking about gang situations here. We are talking about helping youth,” he said.
“I have people on staff who are working in the front lines everyday. And that is extremely important. We are hoping to put new programs in place, particularly in the Hybla Valley area,” said Cheri Zeman, executive director, UCM.
“Collaboration between various county and state agencies is very important to the success of programs like this. And the willingness of non-profits and government to partner is what’s making this possible,” Disselkoen said.
LAURA DERBY, programs and office administrator, Rising Hope Church, explained the new Hypothermia Program which commenced Feb. 1. It is designed to aid homeless individuals who are not able to find space at established shelters during the traditionally coldest month of the year.
To operate on a seven-day basis throughout the evening hours for February and March, Rising Hope United Methodist Mission Church on Russell Road will provide the physical accommodations. Churches throughout the area will help with staffing.
“A number of other churches have stepped up to take a role in this program. However, we do not want to displace people that already have a place at an established shelter. We are telling people not to leave those shelters. This program is geared to those that have nowhere else to go,” Derby said.
With representatives of several affordable housing advocacy groups present, Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerald Hyland urged them to contact the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to increase the appropriation to support this issue. “It’s not too soon to start pushing the board to put aside more than the present one cent from every dollar,” he said.
“Personally, I’d be more impressed if we just had $40 million to deal with rather than taking the set aside to two cents. But, we definitely need to do more on this subject,” Hyland said.