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Palm Coast Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015 3 years ago

Safety net: Flagler Cares to coordinate social services

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Flagler Cares, formed last year, elected its first board of directors last month and is starting new initiatives to build county safety net.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

A new organization will coordinate more than 35 local social service organizations and government departments.

Flagler Cares, which was formed about a year ago to identify gaps in service, has gained nonprofit status, and elected its first board of directors last month, Director Carrie Baird told Flagler County commissioners at a workshop Monday.

“The problems that we’re seeking to solve with Flagler Cares are not unique to Flagler County,” she said. Service organizations in general, she said, are “regularly challenged by the volume of need. As these organizations focus daily on service delivery, they lack the resources to really think strategically.”

Flagler Cares, she said, would do some of that strategic thinking for them, and also convene a grant development collaborative.

“We’re going to employ a very small but experienced staff that can really focus on integrating best practices,” she said.

That would include the creation of a data management system and “a focus on health in the broadest of terms,” integrating services available through Florida Hospital Flagler, the Free Clinic, Stewart-Marchman-Act Behavioral Healthcare, Azalea Health, the Florida Department of Health and the county’s Human Services Department, she said.

“We’ve already had some early success,” she said. “Flagler Cares was the catalyst for a collaboration between the Flagler Free Clinic and SMA behavioral health.”

Flagler Cares will create a centralized database for those services, she said, so people using them don’t have to provide evidence of eligibility, like pay stubs and proof of residency, each time.
County Commissioner Nate McLaughlin said he was impressed.

“I’ve a had a lot of people approach me over the years citing the need for this,” he said. “If you can expand this into a clearinghouse for that, that’s outstanding.”

County Commissioner Frank Meeker asked Baird and Stephen Bickel — the head of the county’s Free Clinic and president of the Flagler Cares board — if Flagler Cares would be able to aid the programs for adults with disabilities, run through the school district, that have lost their state funding.

It would not, at least at this stage, Bickel said.

County Administrator Craig Coffey said he viewed Flagler Cares as “a start of building a safety net for a county of our size.”

County Commissioner Barbara Revels, who is on the Flagler Cares board, said Flagler Cares may end up lowering the county’s costs.

“The point of all this is to maybe lower our output for indigent care, because they’re being taken care of in a more holistic fashion,” she said. “I think Flagler will be on the map throughout the state — maybe even outside the state — for doing something extremely different. I see (Baird) making this presentation across the state a few times, because I just know it’s going to be successful.”

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