Friday Closures of Kern County Department of Human Services Affect Health Programs
The Bakersfield Californian on Monday examined the effects of the Friday closures of the Kern County Department of Human Services. In response to "heavy cuts" to welfare services in July 2002, the department began closing on every Friday and reduced permanent staff by more than 9% to 1,210 from 1,330. Dena Brashear, administrator of the county DHS, said that the department has saved about $4,000 per month on utility bills since the Friday closures began. Despite the decrease in days of operation and workers, many programs, including Medi-Cal, have seen an increase in beneficiaries, the Californian reports. Medi-Cal enrollment in the county has increased 25% to 30,500 beneficiaries from 24,400 beneficiaries before the cuts. County DHS officials said that the Friday closures have given social workers more private time, allowing them to handle the larger case loads. Although the offices are closed, case managers come into work every other Friday for "protected hours" to deal with "complicated paperwork without interruption" from the public, according the Californian. Brashear said, "Our driving need was in meeting our mandated time frames with fewer staff and rising caseloads." Brashear noted that the welfare offices are still open 40 hours per week to the public through extended days and remain open during the lunch hour. In addition, county DHS beneficiaries can still receive emergency services from special work crews on Fridays. Barbara Zimmerman, the administrative coordinator for the county DHS, said that the county supervisors will meet in June to determine if the department will continue to stay closed on Fridays in the next fiscal year, which starts in July (Wenner, Bakersfield Californian, 4/5).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.