Commissioners voting on consolidation study today

Commissioners voting on consolidation study today
March 15
09:46 2018

Forsyth County commissioners will be voting today on if county staff should study consolidating the Social Services and the Public Health departments.

Today’s vote will not be about whether to consolidate the two departments, but will instruct staff to formulate a consolidation plan that the commissioners can vote on, with a goal of possible implementation by July 1.

Last year, the county hired Cansler Collaborative Resources to do a study on consolidating the two departments, which mainly involves who runs them. Currently, both departments have their own boards, which hire those department’s directors. The Cansler study found that combining the boards of the two departments into one Human Services board would be the best option. The department would be headed by a Human Services Director, which the county manager would hire with the board’s advice and consent.

County Commissioner Everette Witherspoon opposes consolidation, saying it’s unneeded and doesn’t address understaffing at the Department of Social Services (DSS).

“You don’t need consolidation; what you need to do is address the problems in DSS,” said Witherspoon at last week’s briefing.

Other commissioners have either said they support the idea or are open to it.

DSS Director Debra Donahue was recently fired and the county is currently accepting application for the position. The DSS board has rejected Donahue’s appeal but, because DSS and Public Health are under the State Human Resources Act, she may also appeal to the state. County Human Resources Manager Shontell Robinson said that the appeals process would not slow down the hiring of a new director.

The State Human Resources Act would be optional under consolidation, allowing the county to place DSS and Public Health employees under the same policies as other employees. This would give the county manager the ability to fire the DSS director. A new state law will start holding counties financially liable for any mistakes in Medicaid enrollment made by their DSS. Facing this new liability, the ability of the county to directly fire a DSS director instead of relying on a DSS board to do it is one of the arguments for consolidation.

Commissioners will also be voting today on a nominal lease of the former Springwood Healthcare Center to Addiction Recovery Care Association Inc. (ARCA). The Springwood Center was a 64,000-square foot, 200-bed nursing facility on Shattalon Drive, next to Forsyth County Animal Control. ARCA is currently located on Union Cross Road and would like to move into the vacant building where it can expand its addiction recovery services. The building is in need of serious repairs and the county is prepared to spend $825,440.88 to replace the roof, water heater and HVAC system. ARCA will be responsible for other repairs and the upkeep of the building.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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