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JH News & Guide Feature: Moskowitz rejoins CES in the wake of new challenges

Written By: By Miranda de Moraes

Date: Dec 14, 2022

Liana Moskowitz thought she wanted to be a businesswoman — until she tasted social work.

Swapping her briefcase for a notepad after several poignant experiences in Africa, Moskowitz now serves as the program director of Community Entry Services.

While she is thrilled to be back at CES after a nine-year hiatus, funding and staffing struggles will keep Moskowitz on her toes.

The unusual switch from business to social work started for Moskowitz in South Africa, when she participated in a business empowerment program. Tasked with relationship building at under-resourced townships, Moskowitz had to learn how to build trust with adults from a very different culture.

Empowering others brought Moskowitz a new sense of purpose and bliss, so much so that she applied to work after college at an international adoption agency in Ethiopia.

Ethiopian girls in orphanage care age out at 16. With few resources and skills, these teenage girls often have few options for work aside from prostitution. Through an initiative called On Their Own, Moskowitz was sent to Ethiopia to help young women establish a reliable source of income to retain their own autonomy.

“We would help women sell crafted items like booties for babies or to work at hair salons,” she said.

After a year with the adoption agency, Moskowitz made her move to Jackson in 2010. That would be the start of her time with Community Entry Services.

The government-funded nonprofit works to support people with disabilities to achieve maximum independence and lead productive lives in the community. Moskowitz dedicated three years to CES, assisting clients with daily tasks from cutting nails to composing grocery lists.

In 2013 she transferred to the Community Safety Network, where she worked directly with victims and survivors of domestic violence and stalking.

“You’re working with people enduring the hardest moment of their life,” Moskowitz said. “We had to be available 24/7. The work at CSN doesn’t turn off.”

After nine years of rigorous crisis support she decided to step away from the Community Safety Network to rejoin Community Entry Services, this time as the program director.

“Our clients have a little bit of stress around transition,” Moskowitz said of staff turnover, which can bring great anxiety to the clients of CES who have developmental or acquired brain injuries.

“It would be really scary to have new people coming into private parts of your life all of the time,” she added.

When Moskowitz was with CES for the first time, roughly a decade ago, she established relationships with the 30-plus clients of the organization. As a result, her return wasn’t so rocky, as it can be hard for clients to adjust to new hires that they don’t know or trust.

CES Jackson has clients from ages 21 to 77 who have lived in the community for a long time and need help with tasks like paying bills, brushing teeth, planning meals and making appointments. The organization has a residential site with 24-hour staff for those with higher support needs, as well as employees who assist individuals in their own homes.

The nonprofit also offers day services for its clients to convene and socialize, which include activities like music therapy and Aqua Zumba. The culture of athleticism and outdoorsmanship in Jackson has opened special doors for CES clients.

“Being in Jackson has allowed our clients to recreate in a way people in other parts of the country don’t get to,” Moskowitz said. “Teton Adaptive Sports and Jackson Hole Therapeutic Riding both serve our clients.”

In the three months that Moskowitz has served as CES program director she has become familiar with two great obstacles the nonprofit faces: limited funding and staffing.

CES is funded by the Medicaid Disability Waiver, which is allocated through the state of Wyoming. The reimbursement rate the organization receives is far lower than the actual cost of support services, Moskowitz said, so more funding is necessary to ensure employees are paid a livable wage and care quality stays up.

“We want to provide the support our clients really need, not the support the state needs,” the program director said.

To tackle this funding dilemma, CES has worked hard to crowdsource, though a jump in state reimbursements is really what Moskowitz thinks is needed to keep the organization healthy. The state cut its budget for CES by 2.5% in 2020, which forced the organization to slice the staff in half.

While the needs of clients have shifted and the organization is able to keep afloat now, the future is what concerns Moskowitz.

“Where we’re feeling the most limited right now is if we can serve new clients,” she said. “There’s a lot of students in the transition school who we hope we can provide services to.”

With insufficient funding and staffing not at capacity, the potential of taking new clients remains a big question mark, especially as current clients grow older and likely will have greater needs with time.

As Moskowitz continues to settle into her new position as program director and works to find a solution to the funding and staffing crisis at CES, she relishes the opportunity to continue uplifting vulnerable groups.

“[CES] really brings me back to my roots of an organization that really elevates, lifts, empowers people,” she said.

“Reconnecting with clients from 10-plus years ago has been wonderful.” — Liana Moskowitz Community Entry Services

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