Heidi Holtz and Kristen Mucitelli-Heath co-chaired the study. Holtz is the director of research and programs at the Gifford Foundation. Mucitelli-Heath is the director of state and federal relations and community initiatives at St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center.
The primary purpose of the study was to develop a clear picture and understanding of the refugee dynamic in Onondaga County—the needs, the service continuum and the opportunities new refugee populations offer—and to recommend policies and programs to make the region a more welcoming community.
This report takes a huge step forward in providing the base information necessary to dispel some of the myths about refugees in the community. The report concludes that while service providers are working cooperatively as much as possible, they sometimes work in isolation from each other.
The report recommends, first and foremost, the establishment of a more formal, ongoing refugee task force that can provide timely and regular communication of the numbers and needs of refugees, as well as other data that local agencies collect. The task force can then facilitate the sharing of information among the various agencies and to the community at large.
“There are many pathways to improvement for our community—and if the stories we heard over the past year are any indication, one of these pathways is to work together to welcome a population that offers our community the potential of vitality and renewal,” says Holtz.
“Our community has a long history of welcoming people from around the world,” adds Heath. “The actions we recommend might be targeted toward helping this new population, but are built on the premise that by helping them, we help ourselves.”