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December 2011

Support for human services in hard times


Dannette R. SmithLast month, Seattle proved once again that it is a very special city.

On Election Day, despite continued bad economic news, an astonishing 64% of Seattle voters renewed the seven-year $232 million Families & Education Levy, doubling the amount of funding to help students succeed in school and their future careers. And in late November, the Seattle City Council unanimously approved the final 2012 City Budget, leaving intact the Mayor's Proposed Budget, which preserved direct human services for the people of Seattle.

In particular, the renewed Families & Education Levy doubles the number of children getting support for early learning, adds after-school and summer programs at 23 schools with high poverty rates, and continues the city's support of health clinics at middle and high schools.

For the Human Services Department (HSD), the new levy will provide almost $62 million over seven years for early learning including
  • Continued support for professional development for children;
  • Expansion of our Step Ahead preschools to serve more students;
  • Expanded support for literacy at home with the Home Visiting Program;
  • New funding for services to help families and students make successful transitions from preschool to kindergarten; and
  • New funding for health and mental health support for children in preschool and child care.
The approved City budget added nearly $1.2 million to augment homelessness programs and public health services. The Council also restored a proposed $17,000 reduction to the Lettuce Link program. More specifically the Council added:
  • $150,000 for shelter and transitional housing for families
  • $150,000 for the Rapid Re-housing Program serving families
  • $20,000 for pilot program serving people living in vehicles
  • $40,000 for late night shelter for homeless families
  • $75,000 for an "opportunity fund" for faith-based organizations providing shelter
  • $478,000 to increase funding for the Nurse Family Partnership (a home visiting service for young, at-risk mothers)
  • $250,000 to HSD for medical and dental services for uninsured Seattle residents
We are grateful to Seattle voters and City government leaders for this support in time of great need. Details about the budget are available here. For more information about the Levy, please see this Web site.
Dannette R. Smith
Director, Seattle Human Services Department


City and state benefits now available on one Web site
Mayor McGinn and Kent McDaniel, Washington Connection client. Photo by Patricia Gray, Wellspring Family Services.

Joined by state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) Secretary Susan Dreyfus, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other partners, Mayor Mike McGinn announced the availability of City benefits on the statewide Web portal, Washington Connection. It's the first partnership of its kind in the nation between a state and a large city. Low-income residents in the greater Seattle area can now more easily learn about and apply for multiple city, local and state-sponsored programs that support people in need.


Launched in December 2010, Washington Connection was expanded in August 2011 to incorporate City benefit programs, including several that are administered by HSD, including

  • Project Share
  • Utility Discount Program
  • Child Care Assistance Program
  • Seattle Step Ahead Preschool Program
  • Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP)

Through mid-November, the City received applications through Washington Connection from 1,991 households applying for 4,177 City benefits.

Za'nari shows dramatic improvement at Speech & Deafness Center

Za'nari is a bright, beautiful, 4-year-old bundle of energy. For the last year, she has been enrolled in the Ned Behnke Speech Language Preschool at the Hearing, Speech & Deafness Center. Za'nari's mom, Andrea, recently told us about Za'nari's struggles to communicate and the profound difference the Behnke Preschool has made in their lives.

Za'nari was born premature with developmental delays - at 2 years of age, she only had the speech and language skills of a 6-month old. She was very difficult to understand and would become easily frustrated due to her inability to communicate.
Mom looked for a preschool suitable for Za'nari, but was discouraged because nothing seemed to be a great fit until she found Hearing, Speech & Deafness Center. At the Behnke Preschool Andrea discovered a language rich environment, taught by Speech Language Pathologists, with children growing in their communication abilities. After her first year in Behnke Preschool, Za'nari has a newfound self-esteem and has shown a dramatic improvement in verbal expression. Za'nari's teachers agree that she has made amazing progress, and are pleased to see her taking initiative in social communication and displaying joy and confidence, where there used to be frustration and head drooping. For more information about this agency click here.

The Seattle Human Services Department provides annual funding to the Hearing, Speech & Deafness Center for advocacy, information and referral, including support for sign language interpreting. Advocacy helps deaf citizens function more capably among those who hear and assists groups in the wider community understand issues faced by deaf and hard of hearing people.

(Reprinted with permission from the Hearing, Speech and Deafness Center.) 

PEARLS helps Filipino American veteran battle depression

A Human Services Department program to help seniors deal with minor depression was recently featured in this article in the International Examiner newspaper. The Program to Encourage Active, Rewarding Lives for Seniors (PEARLS), administered by HSD's Aging and Disability Services Division, made a huge difference in the life of a Filipino American veteran battling with depression.

Community honors Director Dannette Smith
Seattle Human Services Department Director Dannette R. Smith was honored as a "Leader of Vision and Integrity" at an evening reception on Thursday, November 17th at the Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS). More than 100 people attended the event including Mayor McGinn and Councilmember Nick Licata, who presented Dannette with an award to commemorate her leadership in the community and City government. The event was organized by leaders of community-based organizations, including ACRS, First Place School, Minority Executive Directors Coalition, Monica's Place, El Centro de la Raza, East Cherry YWCA, Cultural Reconnection, Central Area Senior Services, Brimm-Donahue & Associates, Atlantic Street Center and Achievement Architects North In addition to speeches by the Mayor and Councilmember Licata were tributes to Dannette by Diane Narasaki with ACRS, Jorge Baron with the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Betsy Lieberman with Building Changes, Merrill Cousins with King County Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and others. The speeches were interspersed with music, song and poetry.


Alzheimer's researcher gives lecture at Coffee Hour

On Thursday, November 17, 2011, Dr. James Leverenz, a renowned researcher and neurologist specializing in the study of Alzheimer's disease gave a fascinating presentation at the Mayor's Office for Senior Citizens' Senior Coffee Hour. Dr. Leverenz, a professor at the University of Washington, talked about the history and pathology of the disease and the latest research studies and treatment trends. For more information, please visit this Web site.
Health clinic helps immigrant teen
Here's a story from one of our community partners, International Community Health Services, about a teenaged client at a school-based health center in Seattle. Ten public high schools and four middle schools in Seattle have health centers. City Families and Education Levy funds are allocated through Public Health-Seattle & King County, the agency responsible for overseeing the program. The centers provide health assessment and services include nursing care, mental health services, management of chronic illnesses, prevention programs and immunizations. 
$1.8 million awarded for homeless prevention

On October 31st, the Seattle Human Services Department approved the award of $1.8 million to eight agencies to provide services under the Homelessness Prevention Request for Investment (RFI). HSD received 23 proposals from interested agencies, totaling $5.2 million in requests. The main purpose of this RFI is to maintain housing stability among low-income families and individuals who are at risk of homelessness. The funds will provide temporary financial assistance and stabilization services to people in households who would be homeless without this assistance. The goal is to assist 700 households per year to achieve housing stability.

'Walkability' and neighborhood design may affect health of seniors

A new study shows that neighborhood design has a significant relationship to physical activity and body weight among older adults. Researchers with the Neighborhood Quality of Life Study looked at neighborhood design in two U.S. cities: Seattle and Baltimore. For the Seattle portion of the study, staff from the Human Services Department's Aging & Disability Services division helped researchers find study participants and other support. The study assesses the impacts of neighborhood walkability on quality of life for older adults and suggests that designing walkable neighborhoods can encourage healthy, active aging across income levels. For more information, see this Web site.

Hiring process for Aging & Disability Services division director continues

The recruitment and hiring process for the Aging & Disability Services division director position continues. The job was posted in November and applications are now due on December 13th. For this position, HSD is working closely with the two other ADS sponsors, King County and United Way of King County, as well as the ADS Advisory Council and the broader community.

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Life Lines is published monthly by the City of Seattle's Human Service Department. Our mission is to connect people with resources and solutions during times of need so we can all live, learn, work and take part in strong, healthy communities. For more timely or breaking news, visit our blog, Human Interests, or visit our Web site. If you have questions, please e-mail David Takami or call 206-684-0253.

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