Spotlight on the American Rescue Plan

Using funds received from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the County of Bucks through its Division of Human Services has allocated millions to shore up key elements of the county’s mental health system and enhance community services and support.

The Human Services Division has so far awarded 21 projects grants totaling approximately $5,000,000.

To determine where to direct funding, Human Services department heads and senior county leadership assessed applications for funding submitted by community providers. The process focused on programs with the potential to do the most good for those members of our community who were hit hardest by lockdowns, economic downturn and other pandemic-related hardships.

Highlighted here are just a few of the exciting programs and projects that will be funded by ARPA grants from Bucks County.

NOVA - Forensic Nursing Program

NOVA (Network of Victim Assistance) is the only comprehensive victim service organization in Bucks County that provides a continuum of care including forensic nursing, the Child Advocacy Center (CAC), trauma counseling, victim advocacy and a large prevention education program with a focus on personal safety. NOVA was granted $150,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding from the County of Bucks to support the Forensic Nursing Program.  The forensic nurses funded, in party, by the ARPA program conduct medical-forensic exams for victims of sexual assault and interpersonal violence (IPV) including non-fatal strangulation in a gender-inclusive, victim-centered, and trauma-informed manner. This 24/7 program currently consists of 20 specialized forensic nurses The objective is to be able to respond and conduct medical forensic exams 24/7 in five of the local hospitals. 

 The goal of this project is to maintain a cohort of fully trained forensic nurses. During 2022 alone, NOVA has increased staffing from 5 part-time nurses to 20 nurses by year end. This increase in staffing has allowed NOVA to ensure full coverage overage resulting in an increase of the number of exams successfully being conducted. One significant outcome of this program will be an increased number of individuals given access to medical forensic services that are being performed by trauma-informed nurses resulting in a decrease of PTSD symptoms.

 Patients who receive an exam from a Forensic Nurse Examiner (FNE), a nurse specially trained in the provision of patient-centered, trauma-informed forensic care, experience better health and prosecutorial outcomes compared to those who receive exams from an untrained provider. An FNE receives over 40 hours of specialized training in collecting evidence and photographing injuries. The FNE asks for consent throughout each step of the exam. The rate of PTSD symptoms and physical or emotional issues is shown to be much lower when an exam is conducted by a trained FNE.

 This funding allows medical forensic services to be provided in five hospitals (Jefferson Bucks, Lower Bucks, Doylestown Hospital, St. Mary’s, and Grandview) throughout the County resulting in greater accessibility for all underserved communities. These services are available at no cost to any victim ultimately eliminating any barriers for low-income individuals. The services are designed to use a trauma-informed and victim-centered approach promoting the rights and dignity of each patient regardless of their race, gender, or income, etc.

  As of November 2022, NOVA has been able to maintain 100% coverage.  Currently the nurses conduct IPV exams at Grandview Hospital and it is anticipated that, in the latter half of 2023, NOVA will have the ability to perform these exams at all five of the Bucks County hospitals that they serve.

 Sexual violence affects 1 in 3 women during their lifetime.   These medical forensic exams administered by FNEs are provided to individuals aged 14 and up throughout Bucks County regardless of race/ethnicity, gender, or socioeconomic status. Sexual violence and interpersonal violence are major public health concerns in the community and, in addition to exams, forensic nurses are trained to recommend medications for STIs and HIV for any victim.  During the period of August 1st through November 30th, 2022, 32 victims consisting of 30 female and 2 male patients received forensic services at the hospital. The average age was 28 years of age and the race/ethnicity consisted of White (75%), Black (9.4%), Multiracial (6.3%), and Hispanic (3.2%).   

 With the help of ARPA funds, more victims will be able to receive the support, services, and preventative medications they need as well as provide expert comprehensive forensic exams, collection of forensic evidence, and collaboration with law enforcement working together as a multidisciplinary team.  When working with law enforcement and the district attorney’s office, FNE’s are able to provide expert testimony that can be used in a court of law to apprehend or prosecute perpetrators that commit violent and abusive acts.    

 If you or someone you know is a victim of violence or abuse and needs help, call 1-800-675-6900 anytime day or night.  

 

A Woman's Place - Expansion of Complex Therapy and Support Programs for Domestic Violence Survivors

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Domestic violence is a societal issue seemingly without end. In fact, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 8 men will experience physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.  26% of children living in the US have witnessed acts of domestic violence before the age of 18*, and worldwide, there are 275 million** children growing up in homes where domestic violence is present. While these are staggering statistics about the impact of DV on those experiencing it, the cost to society is equally staggering. Intimate partner violence costs the US 9.3 billion dollars per year in healthcare, lost wages, and productivity impact as well as law enforcement and legal costs*.  With an issue so large, how do we as a community tackle it?

 A Woman’s Place (AWP), Bucks County’s only domestic violence response organization, has been in business since 1976 when the doors opened to a mother and two children seeking shelter from domestic abuse. In Bucks County, this was a significant first step in addressing the issue and, for 46 years, the work of A Woman’s Place has focused on addressing domestic violence at the community level.

Most people familiar with AWP know it as the organization that provides a hotline and shelter for those in danger from their abusers, but, over its long tenure, the organization has expanded to serve tens of thousands of people seeking support from abuse as well as those desiring to understand it and learn how to end it for good.

Through AWP’s trauma-informed, client-centered empowerment model, the organization continues to offer shelter to more than 60 adults and 59 children per year, but they also do so much more. The organization runs a 24/7 hotline for those in crisis from abuse. This is the entry point into the organization where someone can find a friendly, calm voice on the end of the line and be connected to shelter, counseling, and therapy services for adults and children, legal support for both protection from abuse (PFA) and the criminal process, legal representation for PFA, divorce, custody and child support, housing information for the rapid rehousing program, and referral to other organizations and agencies throughout the county.

In addition to services for those experiencing abuse, the organization has a comprehensive prevention education program reaching children from 4th through 12th grade. By reaching children early and focusing on self-esteem, healthy boundaries, and productive conflict resolution, AWP can focus on breaking the cycle of violence moving into adulthood.  Recently, AWP’s education offerings expanded to the college setting as well; women ages 18 to 24 are the group most vulnerable to domestic abuse.

 In addition to working with more than 6,000 students last year, AWP launched a medical education program focused on healthcare settings to understand, identify, and support victims of abuse. This training is crucial to providing care to those who may not think of themselves as victims and in getting people the help they need before it might be too late.

Thanks to support from Bucks County’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, AWP has been able to sustain programming for the counseling and therapy program, as well as provide addition shelter dollars to those in danger. Through this ARPA grant of $73,600, AWP has maintained the services of a licensed therapist and has supported her training in “Eye Movement, Desensitization, and Reprocessing” or EMDR training. This groundbreaking therapeutic approach has shown great promise with those experiencing significant trauma, such as being the victim of domestic abuse. Through the process, clients learn to detach themselves from their trauma and work through it so that they can heal and move forward. This also provides them with the opportunity to learn from the trauma and hopefully break the cycle of abuse for themselves and their children.  Last year, AWP provided more than 11,000 counseling and therapy hours to survivors and their children through crisis counseling, trauma therapy, and children’s programming.

In addition to therapy funding, the grant focuses on providing money for alternative housing for the periods where the shelter is at full capacity, but because of the level of danger, the individual must be placed somewhere safe like a hotel. These funds have also been used in the case of COVID exposure or illness as well.

Through funding from Bucks County, the state, and federal resources, as well as partnerships with area organizations like BCOC, United Way, Family Services, and others, AWP can serve more than 2300 people annually with crisis response and educate close to 7000 through prevention education efforts. 

  • *Source: National Network to End Domestic Violence Fact Sheet, May 2022
  • **Source: UNICEF, 2006 Report

Buxmont Academy – Chromebooks for Students

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Buxmont Academy is a group of 6 private academic licensed alternative educational programs for troubled and at-risk youth in eastern Pennsylvania. There are approximately 130 students, grades 6 to 12, struggling with a wide range of behavioral and emotional challenges including learning difficulties, drug and alcohol abuse, legal problems, family problems, impulsive or aggressive behavior, lack of self-esteem, mental health issues, ADD/ADHD, oppositional defiance disorder, sexual, physical, or emotional abuse, truancy, school suspensions, and expulsions.

 Buxmont Academy's goal for the Sellersville location, via ARPA funding, was to provide Chromebooks to 18 students to enhance their learning experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Bucks County awarded $6,350 to Buxmont Academy for the purchase of the Chromebooks.

 Representatives from Bucks County Human Services had the opportunity to visit Buxmont Academy’s Sellersville location to observe the great work being done by the staff and students alike.  A genuine community atmosphere is fostered at Buxmont and it shines through.  The students, who gave us a tour of the facility and explained what a typical day was like there, seemed to really appreciate the “norms” (a more positive term for “rules”), the staff, the education they are getting, the arts programming, and the culture of the school.  

 The Chromebooks purchased allowed the students of Buxmont Academy to pivot to a broader spectrum of consistent school-wide virtual educational services as all students are able to use the same equipment.  The Chromebooks also allow students who cannot attend school for medical, or other, reasons to participate in classes virtually so as not to miss important lessons and fall behind in their work.  

 As part of the use of the Chromebooks, the students help create and abide by a set of “Norms” which indicate how the equipment is to be cared for and used responsibly.   Also, the Chromebooks only go home with students if they cannot attend class in person due to illness or some other approved reason.  

 Buxmont Academy’s ARPA-funded Chromebooks for Students project has impacted its students in such a positive way and Bucks County Human Services is proud to support such an initiative. 

 

Lenape Valley Foundation - Improving Residential Facilities

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Lenape Valley Foundation (LVF), a provider of mental health and related services to over 14,000 people each year, received $183,842 in ARPA funding to support renovations to 15 residential locations (apartments and single houses) in Bucks County. Supporting 45 people each year, LVF’s Residential Programs provide safe and stable housing to adults living with severe and persistent mental illness.

The funding was used to improve the quality of housing that supports this vulnerable population by renovating 8 two-bedroom apartments, including new flooring, interior painting, two new kitchens and 8 new bathrooms.  LVF also furnished 12 apartments and 2 group living homes with bedroom furniture that can be easily cleaned and refinished/restored if damaged. 

Bathrooms were completely remodeled with wall repairs, new flooring, vanities and sinks, showers/tubs, and toilets. Kitchens were also renovated with new kitchen cabinets, backsplash, dishwasher, refrigerator, stove, microwaves, and washer/dryer units. New furnishings were provided to 34 bedrooms and included new beds, mattresses, bureaus, nightstands, desks, and chairs. 


YMCA - Operation Compassion Recovery

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Bucks County Supports YMCA’s Operation Compassion Recovery with ARPA Funds

 Representatives from the Bucks County Human Services Division is happy to spotlight YMCA of Bucks and Hunterdon Counties and their program, Operation Compassion Recovery (OCR): Supporting Vulnerable Families with Children and Youth. The YMCA received ARPA funding from Bucks County and we were able to see, firsthand, how it is making a meaningful difference for children and youth from low to moderate income families. At the Y’s Morrisville childcare location, more than 90% of the children are receiving aid and would not have access to these services without contributed support. Through OCR: Supporting Vulnerable Families with Children and Youth, vulnerable children in Morrisville and throughout YMCA programs in Bucks County have access to an expanded food program (hot meals and snacks); access to safe, high quality early childhood and school age education programs; and STEM academic enrichment that allows for advanced learning. 

“The food program gives me peace of mind,” said Paula Carrie, a parent from the Morrisville YMCA childcare program. “I don’t have to worry. I know [my son] will be eating at school. I can’t imagine the YMCA program without the food program.” 

 Since the school year began, YMCA of Bucks and Hunterdon Counties has provided over $350,000 in childcare financial assistance to over 200 low-to-moderate income families in Bucks County.

 “Families whose income lands just above the state subsidy threshold for assistance often still cannot afford quality care for their children,” said Debbie Sontupe, chief development officer for the YMCA. “ARPA funds help the YMCA fill that gap, allowing families to afford childcare and continue to work to support their families.” 

 Operation Compassion Recovery is ensuring that while in YMCA programs, children have access to STEM and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) materials and instruction. To help offset and exceed COVID-19 learning loss, newly purchased STEM and STEAM learning supplies are being implemented throughout the association’s education and care programs.

 “The kits lead school age children through the building of simple toys and machines, demonstrating how things work,” pointed out Ryan Hazelett, VP of childcare for the Y. “Open-ended play materials like blocks, Legos® and large-sized colorful connectors stimulate imagination and creativity, while teaching principles like gravity, and cause-and-effect.”

 “The Bucks County ARPA support has allowed the YMCA’s Operation Compassion Recovery to comprehensively benefit children and families in our community who need the Y the most,” said Zane Moore, president/CEO of YMCA of Bucks and Hunterdon Counties. “Providing healthy, hot meals for children, helping families afford childcare, and increasing access to learning address key indicators of future success. As these children continue to develop and learn, they have a better shot at academic success, and accomplishing their own life goals as they grow into healthy adults who can positively impact their communities.”

 To learn more about YMCA of Bucks and Hunterdon Counties, stop by your local branch, or visit www.ymcabucks.org .


Bucks County Opportunity Council - HELP Center

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The Bucks County Opportunity Council (BCOC) received $197,132 in ARPA funds to create an in-person food shopping area for the Healthy Eating and Living Partnership (HELP) Center.

Already a leader in addressing food insecurity, BCOC plans, with the added funding, to increase the output of its food distribution by 20 percent over two years. Food insecurity impacts more than 44,000 Bucks County residents, more than a third of whom are children.

To increase convenience and flexibility for food recipients, BCOC also added online and pick-up services during the pandemic.

The Opportunity Council has been in operation for more than 55 years and has been a key partner with the county in helping to lift residents out of poverty and achieve self-sufficiency.

No Longer Bound- Bristol Education Center

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Bucks County granted $387,703 in ARPA funds to No Longer Bound to build out programming at the Bristol Education Center in Bristol Township. The group has put those funds toward hiring a site coordinator and program facilitators, as well as toward the costs of general operations.

No Longer Bound is dedicated to helping young people and their caregivers develop a foundation of healthy social-emotional skills with a focus on repairing relationships, fixing harmful situations, and healing from adversity and trauma.

In a partnership with the Bristol Education Center, No Longer Bound aims to create a safe space for community members to thrive through educational opportunities and programs that bridge learning gaps.

St. Luke’s Penn Foundation- Camp Crossroads

Camp Crossroads

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St. Luke’s Penn Foundation is expanding operations using $459,155 in ARPA funds to grow its Camp Crossroads program

Serving children ages 7-12 with a family history of substance abuse, Camp Crossroads will add staff, including a full-time camp director, as it plans new programming for children and adolescents with mental and developmental disorders.

The organization strives to provide a traditional summer camp experience, while also creating a positive impact on the lives of youth who have a family history of substance abuse.

They accomplish this goal by hiring positive adult role models, offering week-long active programming, and creating a safe and loving space for each camper.

Since 1955, St. Luke’s Penn Foundation has been serving members of the community who struggle with mental health or substance related issues.

Ivins Outreach- Educational Programming Expansion and Home Share Program

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Already serving over 1500 students, Ivins Outreach, in partnership with Morrisville Borough School District, hopes to address disparities in education by growing its capacity and providing its wide range of services to up to 3500 children, young adults and seniors.

By utilizing $597,185 in ARPA funds, Ivins Outreach says it can meet its goal by hiring more licensed teachers and tutors which will allow the group to expand its schedule while still providing a personalized learning environment. The organization is also in the process of expanding academic and social-emotional learning (SEL) services.

Along with staffing changes, Ivins Outreach is also using $199,950 in ARPA funds to boost the Home Share program. This program will match vulnerable house-rich cash-poor seniors with working younger individuals looking for affordable housing opportunities in the county.

Ivins Outreach is committed to addressing issues arising in young people and seniors as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic including removal from regular interactions and lack of work which has led to social-emotional underdevelopment and financial difficulties.

At the same time, many seniors had concerns about losing their home and moving to an affordable nursing home which in many places became impossible due to lack of availability during the pandemic.