by Howard Duff, III

 Coordinated by the Diocesan Public Policy Advisory Committee, this is the second in a series of articles about the five issues that will focus our public policy efforts at the Catholics at the Capitol day on March 19. Each article summarizes how each issue impacts, specifically, life and ministry in the Diocese of Rockville Centre. To read the issue brief about Funding for Vulnerable Populations from the New York State Catholic Conference, click here.

Catholic Charities (DRVC) has been caring for those in need since 1957 and during this past year have served over 60,000 people through our many ministries.  Our three Mental Health Clinics have been providing this care despite the scarcity of financial support from the state.  The majority of the children and adults we serve are also faced with other contributing difficulties including poverty and limited resources.

The New York State budget proposal does not provide additional support to clinic operations and the supportive services our clients need. Our Chemical Dependence Clinics and Crisis Center are also facing the same struggle with inadequate funding and the current budget proposal is a decrease of $94.4 million. Currently the new epidemic of heroin and opioid pill abuse is causing significant harm.

Catholic Charities has been the leader in providing quality care for vulnerable people such as the children and adults living in our five Teaching Family Homes, Siena Residence and 13 homes for people with developmental disabilities. The most important tasks are provided by our residential counselors, who care for our residents on a daily basis. These capable and committed caregivers will have sustained five years with no Cost Of Living Adjustments (COLA). They deserve better!

There are a number of other major issues we cannot forget about when considering vulnerable populations. On Long Island, we have far too many homeless people requiring assistance. A safe and affordable home for all people should be a core goal for church and state.  Our seniors and children are often the most vulnerable and the services we provide, including case management and food and nutrition, must be maintained with support from the state.

There is no doubt these are lofty goals and perhaps, at first glance, seem overwhelming. Yet, the work of the Gospel requires us to continue to bring attention to these issues and do what we can to act on them. For in doing so, we foster and encourage “Care with Dignity…Life with Hope.”

“It is essential to draw near to new forms of poverty and vulnerability, in which we are called to recognize the suffering Christ, even if this appears to bring us no tangible and immediate benefits. I think of the homeless, the addicted, refugees, indigenous peoples, the elderly who are increasingly isolated and abandoned, and many others. Migrants present a particular challenge for me, since I am the pastor of a Church without frontiers, a Church which considers herself mother to all.”

-Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 213


Howard G. Duff III is the Director of Mental Health Services of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Rockville Centre.  Duff presented at both diocesan preparation sessions for Catholics at the Capitol.

CNS file photo/Octavio Duran