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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Public input sought on human service priorities

Denise Willard of Leapfrog Solutions facilitates a discussion of human service needs in Annandale.

A group of local residents gathered at a local church in Annandale Aug. 3 to describe what they think should be Fairfax County’s top priorities in providing human services.

The outcome of that meeting, as well as three other public forums, survey results, focus groups, and research findings, will be incorporated into the county’s 2015 Human Services Needs Assessment.

The needs assessment, being carried out by consultants from Leapfrog Solutions, is aimed at giving county officials a better understanding of residents’ concerns so they can align resources, programs, and services to local needs. That is especially crucial, as the county must address a growing number of people in need of services with a shrinking budget.

Once the needs assessment is completed, a final report will be published outlining a set of recommendations to guide policies and programs for the next five years.

Participants at the public forum at the Annandale United Methodist Church were asked to review a list of 20 human services and select their top three priorities. Number one was affordable housing, followed by behavioral health services (for mental illness and substance use disorders) and case management services.

When asked to explain why affordable housing is so important, participants cited these reasons:
  • Housing has become too expensive, even for people working full time.
  • Young people are being priced out of the housing market.
  • The need for affordable housing exceeds the supply of Section 8 and other subsidized units.
  • The lack of affordable housing is causing people to double up in unsafe conditions in single-family houses.
  • There is a lack of affordable housing accessible for people with disabilities.
  • The problem is especially critical for immigrants, young people, and the working poor.
Participants said behavioral health services are a priority because:
  • The population is aging, and there’s an increasing number of people with Alzheimer’s and other memory impairments.
  • Caregivers are stressed and need help, too.
  • People with behavioral issues and substance abusers commit crimes and are disruptive at school.
  • There’s an increase in the immigrant population, including unaccompanied minors who need help as they reconnect with their families.


  1. More money for more pricey consultants, yet not enough money for anything else.

    Are there really no county employees that are already on the payroll that can do this type of county assessment?

  2. These are two good priorities. Also, an outside company has no bias, gets more honest answers from employees, and is given more credibility (rightly or wrongly) than in-house staff.