Accomplishments and Innovations
In January 1997, in response to a ComPac 21 recommendation that called for a restructuring of county government, Marc Cherna was appointed to head the newly created Department of Human Services (DHS). DHS embraced a community-developed vision for meeting the human service needs of county residents - one that challenged the department to create an integrated human service system. Since then, integration has occurred structurally - by consolidating the functions of administration, communications, data analysis, evaluation and research while programmatically, the department has advanced through the creation of a number of nationally-recognized collaborative strategies designed to creatively and effectively meet the needs of Allegheny County residents.
In 2011, as the next step in the DHS vision of full integration, Patricia L. Valentine was appointed to oversee all service offerings and to further program integration. She did so until her retirement in October 2020. After a year of assessment and preliminary planning, and with the involvement and endorsement of 50 senior managers, a universal DHS Practice Model was defined in late 2012.
Our Most Recent Innovations
Preventing Community Violence in Allegheny County
In local municipalities where gun violence is very high, people have been working on solutions, but too often without the sustained resources they need—including funding and technical assistance for programs proven to reduce gun violence. Allegheny County is working to provide these resources to the communities that need support the most, specifically, those with the highest rates of violence.
Improving Crisis Prevention and Response
In September of 2020, the Allegheny County Department of Human Services and Allegheny County Emergency Services co-convened the Crisis Response Stakeholder Group (CRSG). This workgroup is comprised of over 30 stakeholders from across the crisis system, including representatives from 9-1-1, law enforcement, City and County government, elected officials, foundations, provider agencies and community members. It was formed to address the overreliance on emergency services for people with behavioral health needs, as well as the racial inequities that persist throughout our crisis system. Their charge was to develop a comprehensive action plan to improve Allegheny County’s response to behavioral health crises, broadly defined.
Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP)
Through an intensive, youth-led planning process done in collaboration with many local stakeholders in the winter and spring of 2019-2020, DHS identified a variety of new projects, initiatives and system-change work aimed at dramatically reducing youth homelessness in Allegheny County. The elements, outlined in the Allegheny County Coordinated Community Plan to Prevent and End Youth Homelessness,(PDF, 1MB) will enhance existing services, deliver new and innovative programs and create a comprehensive homelessness response system centered around equity and youth voice.
Enables DHS to reach more families who can benefit from support, better match families and babies to the right services, and ensure that the most vulnerable families and babies have access to the best supports we can offer.
Allegheny Housing Assessment (AHA)
The AHA is a decision-support tool designed to help prioritize admissions to supportive housing services for individuals or families experiencing homelessness. The tool uses administrative data from Allegheny County’s Data Warehouse to predict the likelihood of harm if a person remains un-housed and assigns a risk score that is used as part of the housing prioritization process.
Safety and Justice Challenge in Allegheny County
The Safety and Justice Challenge in Allegheny County is a project to safely reduce the population of the Allegheny County Jail and reduce racial and ethnic disparities.