Thu. Oct 29th, 2020

By Samuel Strait – July 14, 2016 -While I would love to pile on when picking apart some government bureaucracy, or even some woe be gone Supervisor who has trouble being functional as a representative, but both stories, “More Hot Air From Finigan” and “Grand Jury Report Is Not Surprising” desperately need some additional context in order to be truly meaningful.  In the first place, lest we fall into the same trap posed by last year’s Grand Jury, where a few jury members hijacked the report in order to settle some ideological disputes and in the process tainted the entire report with false statements and errors, we are reminded that several of the members from last years Grand Jury are on the current one.  From that stand point it would be wise to actually sit down and digest what has been written by this years’ Grand Jury before jumping to any conclusions.  In this case Mr. Hemmingsen and Mr. Finigan might just be allowed a bit of space before being condemned for not having a snappy response to a reporter’s question about the state of affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services.

It should be noted that as some members of the 2015-2016 Grand Jury are hold overs’ from last years’ fiasco, some caution should be exercised before drawing the same conclusions the current Grand Jury has with regards to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).  In the first place they really have little in the way of anything startling or new when it comes to talking about low wages and over worked employees.  Every department head in the County and the City can make the same claim.  As to the “falling through the cracks” conclusion, I see no conclusive evidence beyond unspecified testimony by unidentified clients and care givers to support such a conclusion.  Nor is there any evidence to suggest that the problem is wide spread except from the speculation of the jury based on testimony once again by unidentified clients and caregivers. So why is that testimony given an inordinate amount of credibility?

Keeping in mind the basis and source of the Grand Jury’s conclusion, one should also consider the fact that no jury member has any detailed or close personal experiences to compare with those of a CPS worker.  Nor can any member truly appreciate what goes into the job.  It would be akin to asking an average person off the street to tackle the complete overhaul of a jet engine that has been swapped out in the middle of the night half way through the overhaul with an entirely different engine over a six month period, guided by perhaps misinformation or even false information.  This is why the final report contains so many qualifiers.   Much of what was in the report is based on statistics and what may be valid testimony, but maybe not.  While the supervisors may wish to increase pay and improve working conditions, that is a much larger problem that should include the State and the Federal Governments.  It is at their feet, after all, that many of the current problems in the County can be laid.

Much attention has been paid to the previous director’s efforts to take the department “in a new direction” that of whole person care. While this sounds splashy and cool, what does that really mean?  For Ms. Pierson it seems to mean that DHHS employees were to cater to every whim and desire that clients might have.  Sort of like the concierge at a fancy hotel, where the client just has to appear and all sorts of good things happen.  Of course for Ms. Pierson there were those pesky little details like rules and regulations that limit what can be done.  In that vein, it meant that not every client’s wish list could be satisfied and a certain amount of unsatisfactory outcomes might just “slip through the cracks”.

in addition to whole person care not being possible(Why work if the state is going to supply your every need?), it meant that this new comprehensive service oriented posture that was cutting edge might just be very difficult to monetize.  Yet, as with many state and federal mandates imposed on small rural counties, those costs are often well beyond the County’s means particularly when they come down typically under or unfunded.  The state doesn’t care about what is imposed on the affected class as long as they don’t have to pay too much for it.  That doesn’t even consider the possibility that the whole population may wish to be catered too and want the same kind of “whole personal care”.

The bottom line is that the Grand Jury report is a lot of verbiage about nothing that wasn’t already on the minds of not only the Supervisors, but all the department heads in both the County and the City.  This is not something that is going to be solved by local governments or even the DHHS.  It has been a long term problem created primarily in the halls of the State Capital and in Washington.  Sure DHHS can work out a few kinks, solidify their management posture, and even become “more welcoming”, but the bottom line remains, that they are peddling as fast as they can, with the people and tools that they have.  Until a real economy appears in this County, and relieves some of the pressure on DHHS, the Grand Jury Report is out of line with reality and should be treated as such.

When the government caters to the wants of certain people in society be they rich or poor, you are doing them a great disservice.  Individuals lose the ability to make good decisions when they no longer make decisions.  It just might be that the current way the DHHS does business is best, where the client is actually asked to participate in overcoming the obstacles in their path that will encourage them towards success.  To often, the people, and they are just people, at DHHS receive little or no acknowledgment of the importance of what they do accomplish.  Yet, clients and caregivers, as well as the Grand Jury, it seems are quick to point out anything that appears like failure.

So to the folks at the DHHS take pride in what you do for others that are truly less fortunate and don’t sweat the small stuff. Maybe sometime in the near future you will finally get the atta boy that each and every one of you deserve.

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