Accomplishments

Primary Care Access Network (PCAN)

When Princeton Hospital abruptly closed its doors in 1999 and was quickly followed by the closure of another local Emergency Department, our County Chairman received an urgent letter from area health care leaders asking us (Orange County government) to provide leadership in addressing the health care needs of the County’s uninsured. At the time, we operated a County Clinic that was not meeting expectations, and we realized a different direction was much needed. With help from my community friends, a financial model was crafted that allowed us to create PCAN. Eventually, we created a network of eleven clinics serving diverse areas like Pine Hills, Bithlo, and Meadow Woods - to name just a few. The network was accomplished with minimal impact to the County budget, is operated by not-for-profits and has grown from a patient base of 5,000 patients in 1999 to currently serving over 100,000 Orange County residents annually. PCAN is a collaborative that has endured for over 17 years. My community involvement was the catalyst for creation of this lasting service that focuses on saving lives as well as dollars. Additionally, PCAN has created over 100 real health care jobs for our community. Our original partners included Florida Hospital, Orlando Health, Health Central, Community Health Centers, Inc., Central Florida Community Health Centers (now True Health) and the Health Care Center for the Homeless. Membership has grown over the years, and is the true strength of the collaborative. Drawing national attention, Orange County’s PCAN was one of 16 nominees selected from a nationwide competition to vie for a Harvard Kennedy School of Government innovation award. I am honored to have helped create and launch this outstanding collaborative model.

 

Sexual Assault Center 

In the past, victims of crimes as devastating and traumatizing as sexual assault were examined in local emergency departments as prescribed by law. While a well-meaning effort, this was a depersonalizing way for a traumatized victim to begin a long and intimately psychological and physical healing journey. Everyone connected to the “system” wanted change but didn’t know where to begin. A groundbreaking concept for this needed change was --remarkably – “born” over a Cuban sandwich while I was discussing this dilemma with a good friend who worked for Florida Hospital. Our lunch-time ideas have since become an exceptionally successful Orange County present-day reality. An intrinsic partnering of the Woman’s Resource Center with Florida Hospital was the impetus for the creation of a stand-alone center -- located on hospital grounds -- providing victims and law enforcement officers a warm, calming alternative to often literally cold, frenzied emergency rooms. Victims must no longer be subjected to additional assault to their self-esteem, sense of safety, and environmental distractions. The Sexual Assault Center (SAC) provides safe harbor during this emotional storm.

 

Victims Service Center (VSC)

Orange County spends hundreds of millions of dollars annually in funding our criminal justice system, but several years ago County Commissioners realized that victims of crimes both needed and deserved dedicated assistance. With the goal of victim aid in mind, the County started the Victims Service Center (VSC). Initially a County government program, County Commission approval for the VSC was contingent upon it becoming - within a specified time frame - a stand-alone, not-for-profit agency. With a team of dedicated Orange County staff, I worked diligently with VSC staff and community partners to transition this program to a successful not-for-profit status.  Today, the VSC both receives and provides tremendous community support, and has also assumed oversight of the Sexual Assault Center (SAC), providing enhanced direct-care services to these victims in collaboration with medical and mental health professionals. As further evidence of its unique and exceptional function in our community, the VSC played a critically vital role in counseling victims and victims’ families following the Pulse Nightclub shootings.

 

Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC)

When a juvenile is arrested, confinement by law enforcement is a behavioral-control means of last resort. Generally, it is more beneficial and desirable for everyone involved when a youthful offender can be released to parents, authorized relatives, or to a specialized program less punitive than Juvenile Detention. Prior to the creation of the Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC), arresting officers could be rendered “out-of-service-action” for hours while awaiting legal decisions for the placement of youthful  offenders. With both greater efficiency for law enforcement officers (LEOs) and more skilled care in mind for youthful offenders, the idea of JAC was formed. Subsequently, through agreements with Orlando Health and other community partners, our team and I gained funds and developed a management infrastructure for a twenty-four-hour/seven-day-a-week facility. Staffed with juvenile justice professionals who handle each case individually, LEOs can now place youthful offenders in the hands of skilled JAC professionals for proper evaluation and then quickly return to their other critical law enforcement duties. This collaboration provides significant benefits to both offenders and our community through improved law enforcement presence in the community and enhanced services to youth and families.

 

After School Zone (ASZ)

Previously, after-school activity choices for filling free time by Orange County Middle School children and young teens were often very limited, and many kids were sitting at home alone or, worse yet, left to idly roam the streets which too often led to trouble. A series of articles in the Orlando Sentinel identified this issue, and noted the up-rise of youthful crime during peak hours after school for unsupervised youth. This expose was an important ingredient in formulating the program to come. Recognizing the need for Orange County government to help develop solutions, my boss and I worked to create a safe and beneficial alternative. In partnership and collaboration with FOCUS (Federation of Churches United in Service), Orange County Public Schools, the Central Florida YMCA and the Boys & Girls Club of Central Florida, we created the program “After School Zone” (ASZ) in all Orange County middle schools (with the exception of schools in the City of Orlando as they have their own city program). The ASZ focuses on learning and enhancing academics -- as well as recreation and having fun. Parents with students participating in the “Zone” can now relax knowing where their kids are – safe, supervised, and given the opportunity for recreation and learning in an academic, familiar environment. From an economic perspective, the community benefits immeasurably as parents are better able to focus and work more effectively when they know their children are safe, and children are less likely to move into less-than-desirable behaviors “on the street”.

Pete Clarke for Orange County Mayor