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Outgoing Nebraska DHHS head touts achievements in office

September 26, 2018

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The outgoing head of Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services says she’s pleased with the agency’s efforts to streamline its services for vulnerable and low-income people and confident more improvements are on the way.

Courtney Phillips made the comments Wednesday as she prepares for a new job as executive commissioner of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

Gov. Pete Ricketts appointed Phillips to the Nebraska agency in 2015 after a nationwide search. She previously served as deputy secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.

Phillips said she’s particularly proud of her department’s efforts to reduce public wait times for state benefits, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps.

Lawmakers and public-benefit recipients had previously criticized the state’s system for enrolling in public benefits, known as ACCESS Nebraska, and the department later settled a federal lawsuit filed by an advocacy group. Average wait times to speak with a customer service representative have since fallen from 24 minutes to less than 5 minutes, according to the department.

“We’re constantly trying to make sure the services we provide create the results we’re looking for,” Phillips said.

The department also reduced the average turnaround time for nursing licenses, from an average of 96 to 37 days, in the face of a statewide nursing shortage.

The department has also faced criticism, however, after state auditors questioned more than $26 million in spending on child welfare services. Department officials acknowledged that some areas needed correcting, but disputed other findings in the auditor’s report.

Phillips’ last day on the job is Oct. 14.

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