Human Services adds 9 to shift to proactive stance

August 25, 2018

JUNEAU -- The addition of nine hires for the Human Services and Health Department caused some consternation and conversation for the Dodge County Board of Supervisors, but the extra assistance will aid individuals and families currently struggling.

“Per county board rule, any new positions for the upcoming new fiscal year are required to be presented no later than the August county board meeting in order to have them considered for funding,” said Jim Mielke, Dodge County administrator, who commended Human Services and Health Department Director Becky Bell for explaining the need for the extra personnel.

“Becky did a fantastic job last night (Tuesday),” Mielke said. “She and her team have a great vision.”

The positions included a psychiatric therapist, crisis coordinator, human services supervisor, three social workers and three social services aides. The county’s Human Services and Health Board approved all of the positions with a unanimous vote before the Dodge County Board met Tuesday.

Bell said the goal of the hires is for prevention and early intervention in Dodge County.

“The Department of Human Services is reactive. It’s been reactive for many years,” Bell said. “I am just so happy. That all of the positions that human services requested and were granted tonight were for the benefit of Dodge County residents.”

Bell said the addition of these new positions will allow her staff to expand their services across Dodge County and connect with more individuals and families who are struggling.

Bell said the county Human Services and Health Department reviewed what the county’s needs are and how they can better respond to them.

Following Tuesday’s meeting, Bell said allegations of child abuse are screened to find whether they meet a legal standard. If not, the case is dropped.

To access the department’s services an individual has to be an appropriate candidate or meet the criteria for opening up a child abuse investigation.

“Or you go through youth services if you have broken the law,” Bell said. “So what we want to do is look at the individuals and the families that don’t rise to the level of requiring a child abuse investigation, that are not really breaking the law but are truant from school.”

She said there may be a 10-year-old child who isn’t going to school, but it doesn’t rise to the level of a truancy referral.

“We want to go into those families homes sooner. We believe that by providing them with services on the onset of the identification of a problem that overall long term we are going to prevent that situation from expanding to an out of home placement or an expulsion from school or having a child drop out of high school,” Bell said. “We want to help families sooner, that’s our focus at this point. We want to reach more families, expand our services and work in a preventative manner than being reactive. The vast majority of time, by the time we have become involved, the situation has reached a critical point. Often times you’re looking at an out of home placement. We don’t want to go there. We want to prevent that from happening.”

Bell said there are people in Dodge County who are struggling. “That’s just the bottom line,” she said. “We want to provide more service to people that are in crisis and provide good follow up services such as getting them in to therapy appointments or seeing a psychiatrist. We want to follow up with them on a consistent basis and ask them, ‘How are you doing today? Is there anything that I can help you with?’ That’s not happening consistently in our department. We want that to change.”

Bell said her department’s goal, especially with the new staff additions, is to reach and help more people in Dodge County.

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