BATON ROUGE - Today representatives from five state departments joined Sabine Parish officials and community partners in Many for the grand opening of Neighborhood Place-South, the first Neighborhood Place to open in Louisiana.
Neighborhood Place provides critical services to community residents in a new way. Through Neighborhood Place, the state departments of Social Services, Health and Hospitals, Education, the Louisiana Workforce Commission and the Office of Juvenile Justice work as a team with local providers to offer better, more accessible services to clients because they are located under one roof.
"With overwhelming support from this community, and especially the Sabine Parish School District, we have accomplished something truly unique - something no other community in the state has done - in opening this first Neighborhood Place," said DSS Secretary Kristy Nichols. "Neighborhood Place is a new concept in Louisiana, and Sabine Parish will now serve as a model for how we can provide integrated, collaborative services to impact people's lives and create real change."
In 2008, Governor Bobby Jindal signed Act 775 creating Neighborhood Place. The original legislation, authored by Louisiana State Senator Willie Mount, directed the five state departments -- the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Hospitals, the Department of Social Services, the Louisiana Workforce Commission and the Office of Juvenile Justice to work with local governments and community agencies to implement Neighborhood Place.
According to Nichols, Neighborhood Place was designed to be community led effort that encourages communities to provide resources and to participate in the development of a Neighborhood Place that will be supported by and responsive to their community's unique needs. To ensure that Neighborhood Place serves the unique needs of the Sabine Parish community, a Community Council will serve as the governing body. The council will be made up of clients and community members living and working in the area.
In August 2008, the Sabine Parish School Board approved an agreement with the state to allow the parish to serve as host for Louisiana's first Neighborhood Place, providing citizens in need with a centralized location for collaborative human services.
At the grand opening, representatives from each of the state agency partners were present along with representatives of the Sabine Parish School District, local mayors, officials and dignitaries. State Senator Gerald Long and Representative Frank Howard, a co-sponsor of the legislation creating Neighborhood Place, were in attendance to give remarks.
Neighborhood Place services focus on the critical areas of student achievement, health care, social services, workforce and juvenile justice services. By working as a team, participating agencies can coordinate and adapt services to best meet a client or a family's individual needs.
"Neighborhood place allows us to provide enriched support to our students and their families by merging education, health, workforce development and other key social services into a comprehensive service model," said State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek. "Often times our students are burdened with health issues and other social challenges that impede their educational progress, but we are hopeful that this program will help families in Sabine Parish overcome these kinds of barriers."
To apply for services before Neighborhood Place, families and clients had to travel from all parts of rural Sabine Parish to a number of different offices, which made the process lengthy and inefficient.
"Neighborhood Place will not only bring a new kind of convenience to services, it will help fill health care gaps that have existed in this area," said DHH Undersecretary Charles Castille. "By improving access to some health care services we are helping area residents to take steps in improving their overall health."
Workers at Neighborhood Place will be housed in the same building and will provide services as a team They will be able to communicate with one another to coordinate and adapt services to meet clients' needs.
"The Office of Juvenile Justice is very pleased to be a part of the collaborative effort by state and local agencies to make access to services easier for the citizens of Sabine Parish," said Deputy Secretary Dr. Mary L. Livers. "Neighborhood Place allows staff to better identify the services that families need, make immediate referrals, and collaborate to ensure that those who need services are able to have their needs met in the most efficient manner. We look forward to working with our partner agencies to provide the best possible services to Sabine Parish residents."
A main goal of Neighborhood Place is to provide customer-friendly services that focus on prevention, community education and family self-sufficiency. By working together, agencies can combine resources and maximize the impact of their services for clients.
"The Louisiana Workforce Commission is committed to efficiently providing the services Louisianians need to fully participate in the workforce and establish financial independence," said LWC Executive Director Tim Barfield. "Neighborhood Place is a great example of how that can be done."
The Sabine Parish School District provided two locations in the parish, the Neighborhood Place-South in Many, located on the SPARK school campus, and Neighborhood Place-North in Zwolle. Neighborhood Place-North will open in the coming weeks on the campus of Zwolle High School.
Neighborhood Place- South in Many will be open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The same hours will be kept at Neighborhood- Place-North in Zwolle when it opens in July.
The five state partner agencies currently are working with community members in New Orleans to open the state's next Neighborhood Place. A Neighborhood Place located at the Mahalia Jackson School in New Orleans is tentatively scheduled to open early next year. The services provided at each Neighborhood Place will vary based on needs identified by the community.
For more information, visit www.laneighborhoodplace.org.
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