Mecosta County commissioners hear DHHS report

Danielle Martin, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services offices of Mecosta and Osceola counties, presents a report to Mecosta County Commissioners on Thursday morning. Martin highlighted DHHS’ services in 2017 and plans for 2018. (Pioneer photo/Brandon Fountain)

BIG RAPIDS – It had been more than a decade since county officials heard an annual report from the office of Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Recently, Director Danielle Martin found documents indicating the last report was given in 2001, and felt it was important for county commissioners to have an idea about what the department is doing.

“I thought we owed you a report,” she said during Thursday’s Mecosta County Board of Commissioners meeting. “Your ongoing support of our board of directors and the services we provide needs to be recognized.”

Martin provided a brief overview of DHHS services, with 62 staff members providing support to residents in Mecosta and Osceola counties.

From assistance services of food and Medicaid to protective services for children and adults, Martin said her staff’s focus is to process cases in a concerted, timely effort.

Martin noted in 2017, DHHS investigated 395 Child Protective Services cases and opened 75 ongoing cases.

“Our staff is making a concerted effort to also address those cases in a timely manner, with a 95 percent completion rate in a timely manner,” she said.

Martin indicated one big concern – not only in Mecosta County but throughout the state – is licensing for foster care homes.

“There is a need for foster are in the community,” she said. “Right now, we have infants here and infants statewide that we can’t place. That’s an area for opportunity for us.”

Juvenile services also receive support through the county’s childcare fund, and Martin noted workers are making efforts to complete each report in a timely manner.

She added DHHS’ volunteer services included more than 4,000 trips for residents in need of transportation to counseling, mental health services, substance abuse services and to other locations outside the two counties the department serves.

“Four thousand trips is one of the highest rates for drives in the state, even compared to some of the urban areas in the state,” she said.

Other highlights included:

• DHHS’ Gift for Kids program which provides support and gifts for kids for Christmastime, as well as clothing to schoolchildren in the county;

• Zero violations found in its Department of Child Welfare and Licensing audit;

• Since 2013, a 43 percent decrease in the number of children in care. “It’s a significant reduction in out-of-home costs and payments to the child care fund,” she said. “We’re pleased that it saves the county money, but also preserves families. We’ve been able to keep more kids safely in their homes with other support and services.”

Looking at the year ahead, Martin said DHHS is working on several initiatives, including a child advocacy center.

“We are currently negotiating and collaborating with law enforcement agencies and prosecutors for the center for forensic interviews for victims of sexual abuse or extreme physical abuse in a centralized location,” she said.

Martin noted the center will benefit the county by costing less in the child care fund by the agencies working together.

“It will be less cost to the county, but also less disruption to families in those situations,” she said.

In April, Martin said DHHS will be moving from a caseload-based system for assistance payments to a task-based system, which will affect 18,000 individuals in Mecosta and Osceola counties. Rather than a caseworker, Martin said individuals who seek services will be directed to staff responsible for that service immediately.

“It is a significant portion of our population,” she said. “It’s going to be a big change for them. They will no longer have a caseworker. We’ve seen several other states are using a task-based system, as well as the child support system in our state. We’ve seen significant gains and better services provided. We expect there to be some bumps in the road. While they will have no caseworker to talk to directly, services will be provided more efficiently.”

Martin noted the task-based system also will alleviate the workload for staff members.

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Posted by Brandon Fountain

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