December 19, 2013

Paul Iarrobino, a Department of County Human Services supervisor who oversees the county’s 24-hour Helpline/Resource Connection and advocates for the underserved, has won the state of Oregon’s Award of Excellence for 2013.

On Nov. 14, 2013 the Oregon Department of Human Services, Aging and People with Disabilities named Iarrobino as one of three statewide winners. Iarrobino is a Community Access Program Supervisor for Multnomah County Aging & Disability Services.

Iarrobino oversees the referral services tapped when an elder is lost, when someone is being maltreated or neglected, or needs to transition home from the hospital.

Susan Myers, director of the Department of County Human Services, said "Paul is a creative problem-solver who partners with people in this department and in our community to make a difference."

Nominated by managers and peers, Iarrobino’s nomination letter stated:

“For the past ten years Paul has supervised the 24-hour Helpline, ensuring that older adults and people with disabilities have access to resources and services 24/7. Paul is a strong advocate for quality in Information and Assistance. Paul brings creativity, compassion and collaboration to his work serving older adults and people with disabilities, veterans and family caregivers.

Paul views challenges as the lens of opportunity to improve services for the public and forge new and stronger relationships with partner organizations. He is a caring and positive role model exemplifying DHS’ core values in the work he does and is always open to improve services for the public.”

Iarrobino, who did not know he was nominated, said he was shocked when a colleague notified him of the award.

“I was really touched,’’ he said. “But it’s really a tribute to my colleagues here. We all care so much.’’

As one of the first members of his family to go to college, the Boston native went to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst to study business administration. But he quickly switched to a double major in human services finding he loved working with those who needed help the most.

“It’s about justice. Older adults are often disenfranchised and victimized so I try to make the safety net more secure and robust around them.’’

Iarrobino says he approaches problems as a cultural anthropologist, trying to understand why people are not getting services. Is there a language barrier, lack of awareness? “We want people to be as independent as possible and to empower the community to encircle them, as well.”

Iarrobino first joined Multnomah County in April 1990. He spent six years at the Health Department working in the HIV prevention arena where he focused mostly on underserved communities. His work included a  five-year, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant to reach women, who at that point had been largely overlooked in HIV work.

Since joining Aging & Disabilities Services, Iarrobino has run the Gatekeeper program and focused on strategies and interventions that help support older adults and people with disabilities maintain independence.

“Paul has won this award because of his absolute genuine authentic commitment to the work we do and the people we serve,’’ said Peggy Brey, director of the Aging & Disabilities Division. “His heart is full of this work.’’

When he’s not working, Iarrobino is an avid traveler who has bicycled in Italy, Spain, Costa Rica and Vietnam. “On a bike you get off the beaten track, and away from the big tourist areas. You get to really meet people where they live.’’

If an elder or person with disabilities needs help, call the HELPLINE at 503-988-3646.