This year Catholic Charities Community Services marks 30 years of providing long-term support services to people with disabilities without regard to the individual’s religious, social or economic background. To celebrate its anniversary the agency has planned events that recognize its clients, its volunteers and especially its staff who work everyday to provide extraordinary services for extraordinary people. A walkathon, an employee luncheon, a cookout and a board gathering are planned to celebrate the work of the agency. The agency has been evolving and growing over the years to address the unmet needs of people with disabilities.
Two events in the late 1970s helped establish Catholic Charities Community Services: the Willowbrook Consent Decree and the pastoral statement of the U.S. Catholic bishops on handicapped people.
The Willowbrook Consent Decree, issued in 1975, committed New York state to improving the community placement of residents of Willowbrook State School, "a residential institution for the disabled." Eventually, this commitment was extended to include all institutionalized people with developmental disabilities in New York state.
In response to the pastoral statement of the U.S. Catholic bishops on handicapped people issued in 1978, newly appointed Rochester Bishop Matthew H. Clark created a task force to examine the unmet needs of the disabled within the Diocese of Rochester’s boundaries. With the results of this study and the request of New York state that Catholic Charities become involved in serving the disabled, Catholic Charities Residential Program was established in 1980. In October of 1980 the Lyons community residence, Gavitt House at 24 Catherine St. in Lyons, Wayne County, was taken over from state management and became the first program of the fledgling agency.
Over the years Developmental Disabilities Services has grown to include 11 residential locations and provides services to nearly 300 clients and their families. These services, service coordination, supports for community living and family care are offered with varying degrees of intensity according to the needs of the individual. The nonresidential programs are offered to children as well as adults.
In the late 1980s, Bishop Clark, through his pastoral instruction titled "The Lord Himself Taught Me to Have Compassion," again called on Catholic Charities, at that time called Social Ministry, to consider offering services to the people living with HIV/AIDS. The department that would eventually be called AIDS Services began as case-management and support services for HIV-positive women and their children. When Mary’s House, a residential program for women, closed, nonresidential services offered to the HIV/AIDS population continued and expanded to include men.
Among the services the AIDS Services program offers are Medicaid case management, a subsidized housing program, short-term emergency assistance, non-Medicaid case management and housing services, a medical transportation program, and a program for future planning for families in which the primary caregiver is living with AIDS. Currently AIDS Services offered supports to 240 clients and their families.
Traumatic Brain Injury Services began in 1997 when the New York State Department of Health recognized the growing number of people with adult-onset brain injuries who found themselves without the financial resources or social supports to care for themselves. The state received a Medicaid waiver for this disability and sought out agencies with good performance records to administer it. Catholic Charities Community Services was asked to create a program.
Traumatic Brain Injury Services currently provides to 90 clients such services as service coordination, independent living skills training, intensive behavioral programming, community integration counseling and transportation services.
The newest program, Nursing Home Transition and Diversion Waiver Services, was established in 2009 to address the needs of people with disabilities who are seeking an alternative to a nursing home placement. The program offers service coordination, living skills training, counseling and transitional services that assist with relocation, and access to other services offered to this population by other providers.
All of this growth, including program development, intensive initial and ongoing staff training, and property management, is the work of a highly devoted staff of 220 and an administration of six under the guidance of a highly dedicated board of directors within an $8.3 million budget.
The agency is committed to its mission to facilitate the independence, inclusion and individuality of all people it serves.