06/09/17 — County objects to regional DSS

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County objects to regional DSS

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 9, 2017 7:14 AM

Wayne County commissioners oppose a state plan to mandate consolidation of county departments of social services into 30 or fewer regional departments.

It is a bad idea, commissioners said during their Tuesday morning session.

They followed that denouncement by unanimously adopting a resolution opposing Senate Bill 594/House Bill 608, the Family/Child Protection and Accountability Act.

The vote did endorse an amendment to the bill that calls for a study commission to evaluate all models of social services administration, which will include all stakeholders including county commissioners, county managers, county attorneys, DSS directors, social services board members and DSS attorneys in the study process prior to a decision being made on a specific model.

Commissioners pointed to the state's decision to consolidate mental health as a basis for their opposition.

"We see this as a precursor to going the same route which isn't working very well," County Manager George Wood said of the mental health consolidation. "I think everybody is pretty much opposed to it. That should be up to us whether or not we want to voluntarily go in with another county as something and do a joint DSS.

"It ought not to be forced by the state."

Commissioner Ray Mayo, who sits on the Wayne County DSS board, said he understands the bill is close to being approved, but that the mandatory provision has been removed.

That is what was wanted, Mayo said.

"They can run all of the studies that they want, but it shouldn't be mandatory that we join into a group," Mayo said. "Mr. Earl Marett, the interim DSS director, he knows a lot of people. He hasn't found anybody who is for this.

"The DSS Directors Association adamantly opposes mandatory regionalization."

Mayo made the motion to adopt the resolution.

Under the bill, the School of Government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill would convene a Social Services Regionalization Working Group to make recommendations to the Department of Health and Human Services regarding the preliminary plan for regionalization.

The preliminary plan to regionalize the departments would have to be submitted by January 2019.

The final plan would include a proposed time line for completing the transition to a regional social services system by Jan. 1, 2022.

The Department of Health and Human Services would be required to submit the final plan to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services Committee by March 31, 2019.

Should the department fail to submit a final plan to the committee by that time, the committee would proceed with developing its own plan for regionalization.

The bills are still in committee.