Department of Human Services Takes Home Two State Awards

Published on August 09, 2023


The Department of Human Services (DHS) has been awarded two Virginia Association of Counties (VACo) 2023 Achievement Awards, which recognize excellence in local government programs.  

DHS was recognized for its Arlington Addiction Recovery Initiative (AARI) and the Volunteer Guardianship Program.  

“Both AARI and the Volunteer Guardianship Program serve the community with creativity, compassion, and commitment to helping those in need,” said DHS Director Anita Friedman. “I have seen the excellence within these teams first-hand, so it is satisfying that they are being recognized on a larger stage for their outstanding work.” 

VACo received 135 submissions and selected 33 winners. Winning entries focused on addressing issues of addiction, education, and revitalization, as well as finding solutions to other challenges that counties face daily. 

Arlington Addiction Recovery Initiative 

The Arlington Addiction Recovery Initiative (AARI), managed by the Arlington Department of Human Services, has played a major role in improving community safety and health in the face of a pandemic-related surge in opioid use, and the threats that accompany the increasing presence of fentanyl in the region. AARI was formed in 2017 and has implemented a well-established Prevention, Treatment, and Supply Reduction plan. This plan has helped thousands of residents throughout the opioid crisis that has hit many communities.  

The group’s response to a surge in opioid overdoses among youth in 2023 includes educational events, community town halls, coordination with schools, and widespread training and distribution of Narcan. AARI’s efforts have greatly helped Arlington come to grips with this threat to community health and safety. 

Volunteer Guardianship Program  

Arlington County’s Volunteer Guardianship Program, managed by the Aging and Disability Services Division within the Department of Human Services, connects court-appointed guardians of incapacitated adults with a dedicated Guardianship Coordinator to support them in managing the care and needs of their loved ones. The program serves as a landing ground for guardians who may otherwise not know how to access key county services such as Adult Services, Nursing Case Management, Home Delivered Meals, and Medicaid.  

Additionally, the Guardianship Coordinator provides information about the guardianship process, supports the proposed guardian along their journey, and explores least-restrictive options if available. The program also recruits, trains, and supports court-appointed volunteer guardians for individuals who can no longer make informed decisions for themselves.  

Created in 1986 to address the growing need for more court-appointed fiduciaries for the county’s human services clients, Arlington County’s Volunteer Guardianship Program is one of a small number of volunteer-based guardianship programs in the entire country and is currently the only one of its kind in the state. Community members in need of this service have been determined by the Circuit Court to be incapacitated and cannot turn to friends, family, or neighbors as guardians. Volunteer guardians come from a variety of backgrounds including practicing attorneys, retired federal employees, and social workers. The program provides initial and ongoing training to volunteer guardians and provides support after appointments. 

About the Department of Human Services 

The Arlington County Department of Human Services (DHS) works to advance economic security, safety, and general well-being. Our vision is a just and equitable community that is healthy, safe, and economically secure, and free of systemic racism. DHS is the County’s largest department, serving more than 58,000 individuals annually with a budget of over $183 million, about 800 employees, and more than 100 programs. DHS is well-equipped to address the complex needs of at-risk persons and their families because it is an integrated agency that houses public assistance, social services, behavioral healthcare, housing, public health, adult and aging services, and job programs under one department. DHS oversees and evaluates the complete range of human needs in the County, provides direct services in response to those needs, and contracts with the non-profit sector to provide additional services to those not met directly by the County. 


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