Family Services in YMC asks for additional staff member

GRANITE FALLS — Family Services supervisors in Yellow Medicine County reported to the board of commissioners on Tuesday the need for an additional staff member to assist with assessments.

Supervisors Stacey Steinbach and Melissa Helgeson said staff members were putting in overtime hours trying to handle their case load and still run out to do new assessments. Assessments can take from 5-1/2 hours to more than 26 hours, depending on the need for the services, Helgeson said.

Helgeson also reviewed the prospective and historical revenue involved with doing assessments, some of which are done for those not using public services. In 2016, the assessments brought in $263,102. In 2017, the department was expecting to bring in about $268,000. The number of assessments have about tripled.

Commissioner Ron Antony, who asked why so many are being done.

“Anyone can ask that an assessment be done,” Helgeson said. “Requests come from hospitals, family members and from individuals. It is up to the individual (in question) whether or not the assessment is done.”

YMC Administrator Peg Heglund told the board that the YMC Family Service department is actually doing what the state is asking in regards to assessments and helping to keep costs of nursing homes down. Unfortunately, the state is cutting reimbursement by 15 percent.

It was the contention of the Family Service staff members that the income from their assessments would pay for the additional assessor. Not having the staff, sometimes assessments get held up or given to new staff members if the assessor is tied up. Staff said a delay in assessment can put an child or vulnerable adult at risk. The state has a 20-day time frame.

Heglund said every time an assessment has to be done, a staff member has to stop what they’re currently doing in order to do the assessment.

Board Chair Gary Johnson asked if Family Services could track its assessment income for one year going forward to show how much the county comes out ahead.

“A previous study showed the need.” Helgeson said. “For 2-1/2 years, we’ve been going with just one. We’re back to show you it wouldn’t cost that much for that second assessor.”

Steinbach said in her report that Family Services is dealing with a higher amount of meth and heroin related cases. She also said her staff is required to work 50-plus hours per week to meet state requirements.

“YMC treats its employees better than some other places, but, I don’t think we’re treating our employees well now. I’m hearing they can’t take much more,” she said.

Heglund then proposed to use the $57,000 per year salary of an open position in the highway department to support the new position.

“I don’t plan on replacing the (retiring) tech, but it is back-funded through state aid highway funds, not levy dollars,” YMC Highway Department Manager Andy Sander said.

Heglund said more funds will be coming in for keeping Native American kids in their homes.

Antony brushed aside the funding options.

“I’m not voting for this because somebody is retiring. I will vote for it if we need it,” he said.“I’m just trying to absorb (the information).”

Johnson and Commissioner Glen Kack volunteered to attend a Child Protection meeting the next morning and report on its findings.

The board said it would make a decision at a future meeting.