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Alexandria Leaders Consolidate Human Services

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 The waiting room of the Department of Human Services on Mount Vernon Avenue in Alexandria.
The waiting room of the Department of Human Services on Mount Vernon Avenue in Alexandria.

By Michael Pope

The waiting room of the Department of Human Services is more crowded than it used to be, and every day seems to bring more and more people looking for help. One man refused to speak on the record, but he says wait times have increased dramatically since the economic downturn. That's something that concerns Assistant City Manager Debra Collins.

"If you came here and you need rent relief, but I also know you need substance abuse treatment...," says Collins.

Then what happens? For many years, people would be bounced around though a maze of agencies and departments. But soon, people in need will have a single point of entry: one department that combines all welfare services with mental health treatment, substance-abuse counseling and domestic violence intervention.

"My vision is that there's no wrong door for our clients. It's really making sure that no one leaves here and doesn't make it to the next location. That's the goal," she says.

Community Services Board Chairwoman Mary Anne Weber says one important part of the consolidation effort is the creation of a new call center.

"When the person makes the call for one service, they will learn what else is available they might need or might help them. So they don't have to keep going from office to office," says Weber.

City leaders hope to launch the newly created office within the next year.

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