Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz introduced Al Dirschberger Ph.D., LSCW, as his nominee for Erie County commissioner of social services Wednesday. Currently serving as executive director at Journey's End Refugee Services Inc., Dirschberger joined Poloncarz for the afternoon announcement.
"Following an interview process that included several good candidates, the best candidate rose to the top and I am pleased to nominate Al Dirschberger for commissioner of Social Services," Poloncarz said. "He brings a skill set that will be immediately effective in the management of the department, and he has a vast knowledge of the issues surrounding the delivery of social services.
"Professor Dirschberger's career has been dedicated to being a staunch and caring advocate for children and families, as well as teaching the next generation of social science students the skills they will need to succeed in their careers. He is familiar with the programs, processes and regulations of the department, and I urge the (Erie County) Legislature to quickly confirm his appointment."
Journey's End Refugee Services welcomes refugees without regard to their ethnic origin or creed, and provides them with the resources and support they need to become active, contributing members of the community. The agency provides 300-400 refugees annually with resettlement services, youth education, immigration and legal services, and interpreting services, as well as assistance with employment.
Prior to joining Journey's End in December, Dirschberger built a career at Gateway-Longview Inc., which began in 1987. Supervisory and directory roles in residential education and research and development there ultimately led to a position as vice president. Dirschberger managed a $10 million residential services budget that included residential treatment, care coordination, non-secure detention and care for "hard to place" children.
Utilizing care coordination as a preventive strategy, his collaboration with Erie County Social Services was instrumental in reducing residential placements from more than 500 to approximately 150 per year, as well as shortening the length of those placements from more than 14 months to six months. His redesign of Gateway-Longview's residential program created short-term and "hard to place" residential units, also increasing the average number of days of care for these individuals.
Additionally, Dirschberger created the first "hard to place" program in Erie County, Gateway's "Changing Attitude and Behaviors" program, which focuses on teaching youth considered "hard to serve" due to aggressive tendencies how to better express their emotions. Furthermore, he was a leader in helping to reform state regulatory standards to meet the needs of a changing population.
"Al has been at the forefront of issues affecting children and families, working in a changing regulatory environment, but always focused on the welfare of children," Poloncarz said. "He will bring fresh perspectives, a tireless work ethic, and comprehensive knowledge of the field to the commissioner's post, and I look forward to working with him to serve the residents of Erie County."
"I am grateful for the opportunity to lead the Erie County Department of Social Services. I have worked closely with the department throughout my career and have always been impressed by their hard work and dedication," Dirschberger said. "I look forward to working with the Poloncarz administration, Erie County Legislature and community stakeholders to help improve the lives of Erie County residents."
Dirschberger's appointment will be submitted to the Erie County Legislature for its approval.
For more information on the Erie County Department of Social Services, visit http://www2.erie.gov/socialservices/.