Like many of our staff members, I have a long history in the health and human services fields. Prior to joining DTA, I was the Executive Director for JRI Health, a division of Justice Resource Institute (JRI) Health, an organization that pursues social justice through providing underserved youth, adults and families with opportunities to develop critical skills for living independently.
Before joining JRI in 2005, I was the Executive Director of Cambridge Cares about AIDS. During my tenure there, I instituted model programs for homeless youth and adults that provided case management, behavioral health and health services working consistently with DTA staff to stabilize income, provide food and nutrition services, and to help them build skills for their future. During this time I also served as chair of the Cambridge City Public Health Board, a body that helped shape the priorities of the public health services in the city. By serving in these multiple roles to define helping systems that were fragmented and difficult to navigate, the need to centralize community resources was clear. In association with other leaders in these fields, HousingWorks, Inc. was established to meet that need and I joined this team as President. Throughout my career I have worked in collaboration with others. No one, no agency does this work alone. I have found in DTA and in the Secretariat like-minded spirits, and I am so pleased to be here.
In my role as Commissioner, I hope to bring a unique perspective from both collaborative, client-centered work within the United States and in developing countries. I’ve had the gift of working in and traveling through different parts of the world, seeing how communities with few financial resources come together to address individual and community needs. Women collaboratives, with support, have created powerful and sustainable income-generating and service models that build from cultural strengths emanating from a sense of belonging, mutual responsibility and sharing. Throughout DTA we will be using these lessons to address the “transitional” and sustainable building from the strengths of the individuals, families and communities we serve.
I also hope to build capacity at DTA that will update the agency’s technology, continue to streamline our work and allow DTA case managers greater ability to work directly with individuals, families, and communities. Organizations that provide benefits should not become banks for low-income residents, but instead should focus on serving people in the community, at home, as strategic partners, linking to services, providing resources and helping to move forward toward more self-sufficiency.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve witnessed firsthand that the Department is comprised of smart, caring, and dependable staff members who listen, provide options, and gather resources to provide meaningful interventions for people in need. I am so impressed by the way DTA staff rushed to the aid of residents in Central and Western Massachusetts impacted by the June tornadoes, Hurricane Irene, and the October snowstorm. In offices and tents, staff provided access to critical resources for thousands of individuals and families. These heroic efforts – in the wake of rising caseloads and limited resources – are the essence of DTA.
In the coming weeks and months, I will travel around the Commonwealth to meet with staff, Advisory Boards, legislative and municipal leaders, and community partners to begin the conversation of how we can all work together to build capacity and to respond to urgent needs with optimism and hope. I look forward to meeting you. Please feel free to contact my office at any time by calling 617-348-8400.
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A Celebration of Vitality: Mass Rehabilitation Commission at the ADA Legacy Tour posted on Sep 12
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Secretary Polanowicz Visits DYS Youth in Westborough posted on Sep 4
Health and Human Services Secretary Polanowicz recently spent an afternoon visiting with staff and youth from the Department of Youth Services. Accompanied by DYS Commissioner Peter Forbes, Regional Director Barbara Morton, and Director of Operations of Central Region, Dan O’Sullivan, Secretary Polanowicz observed residential treatment programs …Continue Reading Secretary Polanowicz Visits DYS Youth in Westborough