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DSS-Public Health consolidation takes shape as vote nears

DSS-Public Health consolidation takes shape as vote nears
June 13
16:52 2018

With the public hearing and vote on consolidating the Social Services and Public Health departments on June 21, the county is making plans for what the consolidated Human Services will be like.

Consolidation is mainly about who runs the two departments, with each currently having their own boards that hire and fire their directors. If approved, consolidation would go into effect on July 1 and would have Deputy County Manager Ronda Tatum acting as Human Services director with advice and consent of a consolidated board. County management will have hiring and firing powers.

Human Services employees will no longer be under the State Human Resources Act and will be under the same policies and procedures as other county employees. The current heads of the departments will remain and no staff changes are expected.

Plans are for the new Human Services board to be made up of 10 current public health board members and four current Social Services board members. The county will be advertising to fill four positions: psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker and consumer. The board’s first organizational meeting is scheduled for Aug. 1 at 5:30 p.m. at the Public Health Building and its first official meeting is on Sept. 5 at 5:30 p.m. at the Department of Social Services (DSS).

Tatum said county management has gotten no negative feedback on consolidation. Consolidation is expected to pass, since only Commissioner Everette Witherspoon has voiced opposition to it. Witherspoon said he didn’t like taking away powers from the citizen boards and feels it would give the county commissioners more power over the two departments, since they hire the county manager.

“I just think the firewall between DSS, Public Health and the commissioners has to be maintained and this eliminates that,” said Witherspoon in a briefing last week.

County Manager Dudley Watts replied that the Public Health board chair said that he liked not having to deal with hiring and firing a director. County Commissioner and Social Services Board Chair Fleming El-Amin agreed. His board recently went through the process of firing a DSS director.

“I feel very comfortable going forward we’ll be even more effective as a board without the headaches of going through what we went through last time,” said El-Amin.

Under consolidation, firing the directors of either DSS or Public Health would be a decision by the Human Services and Human Resources directors with any appeals being made to the county manager. Commissioners do not meet on county personnel matters unless its one of the few positions they hire themselves, like the county manager, clerk or tax appraiser, or if there’s a legal issue.

Also on June 21, commissioners will vote on a memorandum of understanding between Forsyth DSS and the State Department of Health and Human Services that will require the local department to meet 27 performance requirements or NCDHHS could withhold state and federal funding. If approved, the agreement goes into effect on July 1 with a grace period where no corrective plans will be given until Jan. 1, 2019.

Forsyth DSS only had four requirements it’s not meeting. Instead of 41 percent of children in foster care finding permanency in 12 months, the department’s at 27 percent. Instead of 100 percent of program integrity claims for Food and Nutrition Services being established within 180 day of discovery, the department is at 88 percent. Instead of 50 percent of individuals and 90 percent of two-parent families verifying the required hours of work activities for Work First, the department’s at 12 percent on both.

DSS Director Victor Isler said that he was confident that DSS can achieve those through changing some business processes and he was proud his department already met most of the requirements.

“Our house is secure when it comes to performance,” said Isler.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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