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Focus On Prevention 

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Stanislaus County’s Focus on Prevention is off to a great start. The initiative—designed to get everyone in the county to work together and improve the quality of life for all of us—has already made progress by uniting diverse stakeholders throughout the county and producing strategies to prevent homelessness. “Focus on Prevention aims to improve the quality of life of all Stanislaus residents through coordinated prevention efforts that work across multiple sectors,” explained Ruben Imperial, Stanislaus County’s community development and empowerment manager. “Focus on Prevention is building a movement to strengthen Stanislaus County families and the neighborhoods and communities, schools and businesses, and other institutions that help them thrive.”

The initiative focuses resources to prevent conditions that cause residents to struggle with living in Stanislaus County; brings together local organizations and residents to work for change; and facilitates learning and mutual accountability for the betterment of the entire community. “Since its launch in May 2015, Focus on Prevention has brought together a very broad group of multi-sector leaders and stakeholders to focus on the quality of life for our community,” said Imperial. “We’re now defining the results we’d like to see in our community and how we’ll work together across multiple sectors to achieve these results.”

Although Focus on Prevention was launched by Stanislaus County, the initiative’s ultimate success depends on everyone. “The county CEO’s office is providing the administrative infrastructure for the project, such as strategic planning, facilitations, and outcomes/data development,” Imperial said. “Our expectation is that communities will take more and more ownership as the initiative progresses.”

Focus on Prevention is led by a Stewardship Council composed of volunteers from stakeholder groups throughout the community including arts, entertainment and sports; business; education; faith; local government; media; neighborhoods; nonprofits; philanthropy; and health. “Over the next few months, Stewardship Council members will lead dialogues with sector leaders and residents to solicit feedback and suggestions, and to build shared commitment to effect these results through sustained action,” Imperial said. “By working together across multiple sectors to achieve the results we’ve targeted, we will have an impact in strengthening our families and youth, and reducing recidivism and homelessness.”

Progress has already been made on the first phase of the Focus on Prevention initiative, geared toward preventing homelessness in Stanislaus County. “At the latest count, roughly 1,400 people were homeless in Stanislaus County, including approximately 987 people in Modesto,” Imperial reported. The Stewardship Council and County Board of Supervisors have endorsed a plan created by the Homeless Action Council that outlines strategies to combat homelessness in Stanislaus County, and the county has hired a housing and supportive services manager to coordinate implementation of the plan. “We’ve already begun work on developing a coordinated access system for people who are homeless in Stanislaus County,” Imperial said. “This system will include a centralized assessment process that integrates public and community-based support resources and providers, and a county-wide housing inventory database.”

“We are also developing an outreach and engagement team that will work with neighborhoods and communities in a coordinated and strategic way and search out people in need,” Imperial noted. Imperial pointed out that Focus on Prevention is a long-term plan expected to gain effectiveness and momentum over a ten-year period. “The next phase will involve strengthening families,” he said. “Working across sectors will be a learning process for our community,” Imperial reflected. “Often when it comes to addressing these issues, we’ve relied on just a few of the sectors. Now we’re beginning to see the benefit when we involve leaders and stakeholders across multiple sectors.”

Imperial added that intentional effort and concentrated focus are required to transition from the traditional system which involved many stand-alone, independently operated entities aimed at solving problems on their own, to a new system that involves all entities in a coordinated group effort. “Each of us can better understand our roles by engaging in the process and learning from each other,” Imperial added. “This is not just a process where programs will be the focus. This is about figuring out ways that we all can contribute and act together toward the common good of our community.”

For information about Focus on Prevention, updates on meetings and a roster of Stewardship Council members, visit

www.preventionfocus.net.

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