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Alameda County, chief executive Muranishi honored for aiding disabled

Appreciation awards given by East Bay Innovations

Alameda County was honored Thursday for its commitment to diversity and for being a leader in providing employment opportunities to people with disabilities.

The county received the award from East Bay Innovations, a San Leandro organization that helps people with developmental disabilities live independently, at its annual Employer Appreciation event.

In addition, Alameda County's Chief Executive Susan S. Muranishi was recognized as a "Champion" for her leadership in ensuring Alameda County maintains and broadens its commitment to people with disabilities.

East Bay Innovations specifically recognized Alameda County for its Project SEARCH Program, which provides year-long internships to people with developmental disabilities. Interns with on-the-job skills training are fully immersed in a large public sector workplace and the opportunity to use these skills for gainful employment.

Muranishi's "Champion" award came less than two weeks after she was honored by the Asian Community Mental Health Services organization at its 36th anniversary program May 7. The Oakland-based organization selected Muranishi, the Mental Health Association of Alameda County and Safeway as its 2010 honorees for work they have done to "promote personal empowerment and self-determination for the neediest members of our community.''

Muranishi, Alameda County's Chief Executive since 1995, was honored for her "innovative leadership'' of the county organization, which has about 9,000 employees, an annual budget of $2.4 billion and serves a diverse population of about 1.5 million residents.

Muranishi, it was noted, routinely has an impact that extends beyond her primary responsibilities as Alameda County Administrator. She was praised for her active involvement in local schools and non-profit organizations, and for breaking new ground at the county by spearheading the "New Beginnings Initiative,'' a partnership with local business that employs trains and supports at-risk youth from Alameda County's foster care and juvenile justice system.

Two other Muranishi-led initiatives in Alameda County were cited at the ACMHS gala: newly developed youth and adult leadership academies that engage residents and teach them the responsibilities and challenges of local government; and a partnership with the Peralta Community College District that is providing training and certification for Alameda County employees seeking management opportunities.

The Mental Health Association of Alameda County was honored along with Muranishi for the work it does to improve care and treatment for people who have serious mental illness. The Association also was lauded for the work it does to improve services and support for family caregivers.

The third honoree, Safeway was cited for its longstanding commitment to helping people with physical and mental disabilities. One of North America's largest food and drug retailers, Safeway employs about 10,000 people with disabilities. In 2009, the company also donated more than $250 million to organizations helping people with disabilities, as well as to education and hunger relief programs.

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