Every community must face an ever-changing environment and its influence on human well-being. How a community responds can be shaped by effective planning. That’s where United Community Services of Johnson County comes in. Through information, collaborative planning and mobilization of resources, the availability of health and human services can be enhanced to meet present and emerging needs.
Kansas Public Policy Forum Focus – Health Equity & Federal Budget’s Impact on States
This year’s Kansas Public Policy Forum, hosted by UCS, Community Health Council of Wyandotte County (CHC) and United Way of Greater Kansas City, convened 15 state legislators from Johnson and Wyandotte counties as well as local elected officials, county and city staff, health and human service agencies, health foundation grant makers, community advocates, educators, and residents.
UCS Executive Director Julie Brewer and CHC Executive Director Jerry Jones began the forum discussing issues that impact health in Johnson and Wyandotte counties such as poverty, lack of health insurance, safe and affordable housing, and barrier to success for children and youth. Both agencies have received grants from the Kansas Health Foundation to improve health equity, the fair and just opportunity for everyone to be as healthy as possible, in their respective communities.
David Adkins, Executive Director/CEO of the Council of State Governments, was a featured presenter at the forum. The Council of State Governments is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization serving all three branches of state government. It is a region-based forum that fosters the exchange of insights and ideas to help state officials shape public policy. Adkins, a former Kansas state legislator, discussed the role federal funding plays at the state level and the potential impact of the President’s proposed budget cuts to critical Kansas safety net programs.
The forum included a panel of experienced legislators including Senator Laura Kelly, Representative Kathy Wolfe Moore, and Representative Linda Gallagher. The panel discussed the upcoming legislative session, current work of the Child Welfare System Task Force, Mental Health, and SNAP, TANF and other safety net programs. A summary of the Kansas Public Policy Forum and copy of the presentation materials will be available on the website soon.
UCS Marks 50 Year Milestone with Community Celebration
More than 200 community members joined UCS in celebrating the agency’s 50th Anniversary this week. David Adkins (Executive Director/CEO of the Council of State Governments, former state legislator and past UCS Distinguished Public Service award recipient), and Carol Sader (community leader, former state legislator and past UCS Distinguished Public Service award recipient), took the audience back to 1967 and discussed the community work of UCS through the years. Their presentation was highlighted with digital stories of current community collaborations filmed by students of the Blue Valley School District CAPS program.
UCS presented its annual Human Service Awards. The Citizen of the Year Award was presented to Elaine Tatham, PhD, President of ETC Institute in recognition of her long history of community service and the special role she played in UCS history of using data to tell the story of community needs. The Distinguished Public Service Award was presented to Senator Barbara Bollier for her advocacy on health issues in both the Kansas house and senate. The Excellence in Community Service Award was presented to Johnson County Mental Health Center, Johnson County EMS, Olathe Health, and the 14 municipalities and the law enforcement agencies who serve these jurisdictions in recognition of the Johnson County Mental Health Center Co-Responder Program and Partners.
Past UCS Board Presidents and Executive Directors were recognized for their leadership on behalf of UCS and service to the community. The event concluded with UCS unveiling the results of its yearlong strategic planning efforts and overview of new initiatives the organization has launched around health equity and addressing needs of youth transitioning out of foster care, juvenile justice and other barriers to successful independence.
UCS recently released a report entitled “From Foster Care to Independence: An Assessment of Best Practices to Support Youth Who Age Out of Foster Care”. This report represents the culmination of several months of research conducted by UCS in response to the 2015 Framework for Reducing Poverty and Creating Opportunity, which calls on the human services sector to increase access to the safety net for childless adults and transitional-age youth. The report includes a system assessment, review of best practices and model programs, and recommendations for stakeholders.