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Commissioners consider DSS consolidation

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The Pitt County Board of Commissioners is considering a measure to consolidate the county's human service agencies. This means that food stamps, Medicaid, public transportation and veteran services could all be under one roof.

At the county's November 4th meeting, commissioners stressed their dissatisfaction with the NC FAST transition.

Since NC FAST was launched, some families have gone without services for more than 6 months.

The county's director, George Perry says a lack of training, technical glitches and an influx of applications led to the backlog, but commissioners say Perry and his team should have done a better job. 

Just last week, Perry announced he will be retiring from his position in February.

On Monday, County Manager Scott Elliot presented the board with three options.

Here are the options they have before them:

Option One 
• Organization: Under this option, the Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) does not 
change the overall organization of the agency or agencies involved. No combination of 
agencies is required. 
• Governance: The BoCC directly assumes the powers and duties of one or more of the 
governing boards responsible for overseeing a local human services agency (i.e., local 
board of health and/or county board of social services). 

Option Two 
• Organization: The BoCC creates a new agency called a consolidated human services 
agency (CHSA) by combining two or more county human services agencies. The term 
"human services" is undefined in the law. Most of the discussion has focused on local 
health departments and departments of social services, but other departments and 
agencies may also be involved (such as local agencies focused on veterans, aging 
populations, or transportation). Note that local management entities (LMEs) involved 
with mental health, substance abuse, and developmental disabilities services may not be 
included in these new CHSAs. 
• Governance: The BoCC appoints a new consolidated human services board that serves 
as the CHSA's governing board. 

Option Three 
• Organization: The BoCC creates a new agency called a consolidated human services 
agency (CHSA) by combining two or more human services agencies. 
• Governance: The BoCC becomes the governing board when it directly assumes the 
powers and duties of the consolidated human services board. 

The School of Government also lists a number of "process considerations" that need to be taken into account in the CHSA. Some of these include: 

• Public hearing: If the board of county commissioners plans to serve as the governing 
board for the new CHSA, it must hold a public hearing. The law requires "30 days' 
notice of said public hearing given in a newspaper having general circulation in said 
county." GS 153A-77(a). The hearing requirement is triggered by the board of 
commissioners assuming the powers and duties of another board – which could be a local 
board of health, a county board of social services, or a consolidated human services 

• State Personnel Act: As a general rule, employees of county departments of social 
services and local health departments are county employees but are subject to the State 
Personnel Act (SPA). When a county creates a new consolidated human services agency 
by electing either Option Two or Option Three, the employees of the new agency are 
removed from SPA coverage and placed under county personnel policies, unless the 
BoCC affirmatively elects to keep them under the SPA. If the employees are not kept under the SPA, the county personnel policies must comply with the federal merit 
personnel standards. (5 CFR Subpart F). Therefore, prior to taking an action that removes 
employees from the SPA, a county should conduct a careful review of its policies and 
make any changes that are necessary to comply with those standards. 

• Advisory committees: If a BoCC decides to assume the powers and duties of either a 
local board of health or a consolidated human services board, it must appoint an advisory 
committee for public health. The committee membership must, at a minimum, meet the 
requirements for a county board of health found in G.S. 130A-35. It may include more 
members – for example, if a CHSA will include DSS, this advisory committee could have 
a broader scope and include people with social services expertise or interests. The BoCC 
also has the option of appointing a separate advisory committee for social services or 
other issues, but that is not required by law (see G.S. 153A-77(a)). The law does not 
specify whether the public health advisory committee needs to be appointed before the 
BoCC assumes the powers and duties of the local board of health or consolidated human 
services board. 

• Agency leadership: If a BoCC is considering establishing a new CHSA, the county 
manager will have the authority to appoint the agency director but may do so only with 
the advice and consent of the governing board (which is the consolidated human services 
board under Option Two or the BoCC under Option Three). Because of the advice and 
consent requirement, there is a logical sequence that should be followed for appointing 
the director: 
1. Establish the CHSA. 
2. Either appoint a consolidated human services board or have the BoCC assume the 
powers and duties of the agency governing board. 
3. The county manager identifies a candidate for consolidated human services 
director and seeks the advice and consent of the agency governing board. 
4. If the agency governing board consents to the appointment, the county manager 
appoints the consolidated human services director. 

Commissioner Eugene James who also sits on the DSS board is in favor of more oversight. “I believe it would help because it will make this board realize what is needed for the social services workers,” James said.

While some disagree, “I don't think the system is broken,” others have their reservations about a change.

“If you have control and appointing authority....we may have to put more county money in it,” Commissioner Tom Johnson said.

The board decided not to take any action on Monday. At this time they are requesting more information, but are urged to make a decision soon since they could have the power of selecting a new director.

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