Dutchess County is looking to invest.
While contentious topics such as the construction of the Justice and Transition Center and the modernization of Dutchess Stadium can quickly commandeer any discussion of county spending, some of the investments are more personal in nature.
“He invests in people,” County Executive Marc Molinaro said of a homeless shelter project, which would provide not only beds but also social workers and assistance to its residents to help them get out of homelessness. “We will invest in the comprehensive services and support infrastructure needed in one space to help people overcome complex human problems.”
The $7 million project, which would place a shelter in the town of Poughkeepsie, is among several new physical and behavioral initiatives that Dutchess has proposed or is in the process of starting, at a time when the county government’s economy is healthier than many of its inhabitants. .
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“Despite the fact that our county government is well placed, we know that the average American family and small, individual business, farmer and senior citizen in our community are facing struggles the likes of which we have not seen in years. generations,” Molinaro said Wednesday as part of his state of the county event, held at the Stissing Center in Pine Plains.
In remarks that at times sounded like a campaign speech, Molinaro unveiled several previously unannounced or recently announced initiatives that he says will help different populations in the county.
The announcements were peppered with reminders of recent county successes — such as property and sales tax relief that went into effect this year — and topics that have emerged as frequent talking points as the Republican mounts a campaign. against incumbent Democrat Antonio Delgado for the 19th Congressional District Seat.
Inflation and shortcomings of state and federal governments were frequently discussed, as was bail reform – a hot topic for many at a time of rising gun violence, although there was little definitive statistical correlation between the two.
“The very foundations of public safety are at risk,” Molinaro said. “Cashless bail in New York State has endangered public safety. End of sentence.
While this fire and brimstone may be received differently by those seated on one side of the aisle versus the other, the county executive has balanced this with proposals to strengthen response programs. of the county who help those with behavioral or substance abuse issues that may have landed them in the criminal justice system.
Here’s what to know about the county’s plans and initiatives:
mental health support
Molinaro announced a $3 million investment in the county to partner with Westchester Medical Center Health Network and MidHudson Regional Hospital to create a “Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health.”
The facility would be served by 60 new staff members hired by the health network and would expand the treatment of mental health inpatients.
“We are going to create new long-term opportunities in bed that will not only benefit Dutchess but Ulster County,” Molinaro said, saying it “will change and change the paradigm in how we provide long-term support. “. for those living with mental health (problems).
Dutchess also plans to expand its Intensive Treatment Alternatives Program, or ITAP, which provides “a highly structured level of treatment to patients with chemotherapy who are involved in the criminal justice system and who are legally mandated by the courts as an alternative to incarceration”.
Criminal Justice Response
While praising the progress of the Justice and Transition Center, noting that construction is on time and on budget, Molinaro noted that Dutchess’ RESTART program, or Re-entry Stabilization Transition and Reintegration Track, would have double the space. and more resources in the new prison. The multi-agency program aims to provide “treatment and rehabilitation services to male and female inmates” of the prison “who are at high risk of recidivism”.
Molinaro said the county also plans to use money earned from the state’s legal agreements with opioid manufacturers and distributors to launch a “law enforcement-assisted diversion” program. People convicted or charged with a crime with substance abuse issues would receive help with things like creating an action plan to achieve sobriety. The state attorney general’s office announced Wednesday that Dutchess was receiving more than $2.6 million in her first payment, with more expected in the future.
“With these dollars, we will engage in intensive case management for people with very complex human needs,” Molinaro said. “Many of these people are part of our more chronically homeless population, and the current system just isn’t good enough to provide help.”
The county also plans to expand its Opioid Use Disorder Medication Program and launch a program called “RECHARGE,” which will provide incarcerated individuals with safe and secure housing, case management, and support. to work.
“Opportunity and housing are necessary to have a safe, secure and affordable community,” Molinaro said.
The county previously announced that $20 million, much of it from US bailout funding, would be earmarked for housing affordability, at a time when more than half of the county’s renters are considered economically burdened. by housing costs and the inventory of properties for potential buyers has decreased.
Some of that money will be used to create a housing trust, to help with things like infrastructure improvements needed to bring development into a space, tax incentives, or preventative environmental reviews of the site.
Among a long list of housing projects mentioned on Wednesday, Molinaro announced a little-known upcoming development in the town of Poughkeepsie, into which the former Schatz Federal Bearings Corporation site will be redeveloped.
The plan calls for the development of 250 housing units on the Fairview Avenue property, of which at least 70% are considered affordable and a preference given to veterans.
The proposed 120-bed homeless shelter, meanwhile, has met with resistance.
City officials were torn. While professing a desire to help the people and understanding that the city is where many are, the common council bristled at the idea of placing the shelter in the Fifth Ward, which is already battling the gun violence and substance abuse, and has a majority-minority population.
On Wednesday morning, County Legislature Minority Leader Yvette Valdes Smith released a statement accusing Molinaro of “steamrolling” the council’s concerns to push the bill through the Republican-majority Legislature.
Molinaro appeared to respond to that criticism on Wednesday, announcing that the county would partner with the city to expand police resources in the shelter and around his neighborhood.
“We have a moral imperative,” the county executive said of addressing homelessness, “and we need to address it now.”
Support for veterans
Molinaro announced several initiatives aimed at veterans.
In the coming weeks, the county will launch a “Veterans Justice Court,” in partnership with the City of Beacon and County Court Judge Jessica Segal, “To ensure that veterans trapped in the justice system criminal justice receive the attention and care they deserve.”
The county is also partnering with Wappingers Rural Cemetery to create a Veterans’ Cemetery.
“Dutchess has no singular place to provide an honorary resting place, if you will, for these veterans who are no longer with us,” Molinaro said.
And, there is a proposal in the Legislature to create a $150,000 micro-grants program to support investments in veterans service organizations.
The county also announced two efforts to help firefighters, with a $2 million fund for capital projects, training and equipping fire departments; and by proposing a 10% property tax reduction on property assessment for area firefighters.