Luzerne County Social Services used their recent 2022 budget presentations to highlight the services they provide to county residents and some of the issues they face.
Acting County Director Romilda Crocamo publicly thanked these departments and told County Council that their employees have worked tirelessly throughout the coronavirus pandemic to help people “deprived of the right to vote” and ” have no voice ”.
Collectively, their proposed budgets total $ 113 million, and they are seeking $ 8.7 million from the county general fund operating budget, which is about the same as this year.
Children and youth
The agency is seeking $ 6.9 million in funding from the county for its $ 45.63 million budget, said county social services program director John Alunni, who has been appointed interim administrator. children and youth after the arrest of the previous director, Joanne Van Saun, in July.
Van Saun pleaded guilty last month to child endangerment and obstruction offenses related to his failure to investigate hundreds of reports alleging child abuse and neglect in 2017.
Alunni told the board the agency received 6,788 referrals this year through November 10.
This includes 812 child protection services (CPS) and 2,721 general protection services (GPS) referrals, Alunni said.
The SPC’s cases should be investigated immediately as they involve allegations of physical, sexual, emotional and medical abuse or neglect, he said.
The response time for GPS cases ranges from immediate to 10 days depending on the alleged risk, he said. Parental drug addiction, mental health issues, inadequate living conditions and absenteeism are among the types of reports classified as SPM, he said.
Other references have focused on a range of support for affordable and safe housing, food, clothing, mental health or substance abuse treatment and other services that families need, a- he declared. Many parents served by the child welfare system also struggle with reliable child care, unemployment, lack of knowledge about child development, lack of transportation and support systems. little or no support, he said.
Currently, 3,654 families are receiving ongoing services from the agency, he said.
There are 886 children placed outside their parental home and another 296 children are “reaching permanence” thanks to a stability plan covering their housing and long-term care, according to the Alunni report.
As of November 10 of this year, 72 children have been adopted, he said.
The agency’s future goals include stabilizing the child and youth workforce, Alunni said.
It is approved for 208 workers, but there are currently 60 vacant positions, officials said.
Recruiting and retaining social workers has long been a challenge here and statewide, in large part due to the low pay and high job stress associated with investigating allegations of child abuse and neglect. , officials said.
To facilitate recruitment, county officials increased the starting salary for social workers in 2018. The more experienced “social worker 2” position currently starts at $ 38,956 per year, while the pay for the “worker” position Entry-level Social 1 ”starts at $ 32,419, according to job postings. on the link “career opportunities” of the human resources department on luzernecounty.org.
Board Chairman Tim McGinley praised the agency’s financial agent Chris Dalessandro for submitting timely financial reports to the state for the past nine quarters. Delays in previous reports have delayed the county’s receipt of reimbursement, creating cash flow problems elsewhere in the county’s budget, McGinley said.
McGinley urged the agency to “keep working hard” amid the fallout from Van Saun’s guilty plea and other ongoing challenges.
“I know you have worked under difficult circumstances over the past few months, but we appreciate your efforts, and certainly the people you serve appreciate your efforts,” said McGinley.
Mental health / development services
The agency is seeking $ 158,821 in county funding for its $ 23.3 million budget.
More than 19,000 residents of Lucerne and Wyoming counties receive mental health support from the agency each year, said administrator Tara Fox.
The agency also provides developmental support services to 2,000 other residents and early intervention services to 500 children.
Services range from outpatient or less restrictive case management to the more restrictive option of placement at the inpatient psychiatric facility at Clarks Summit State Hospital.
Drugs and alcohol
The agency is seeking $ 175,850 in county funding for its $ 7.4 million budget.
He manages client cases, provides funding to uninsured or underinsured residents with substance use disorders, connects clients to family programs and support groups, oversees a state housing subsidy for opioids, distributes the antidote to Narcan opioid overdoses and helps with other emerging needs, said administrator Ryan Hogan.
Its goals for 2022 include expanding bilingual services, improving staff retention and training of external providers, and exploring the addition of a residential rehabilitation center for adolescents in this region.
Hogan told the council that all drug and alcohol treatment is voluntary and that there is no legal way for relatives to force someone to undergo it.
Stigma remains a “big problem,” he said. The agency tries to educate the general public that substance use disorders are a disease that can be successful when properly treated.
The agency is not seeking any county funds for its $ 13.86 million budget, which is covered by state and federal funds and other revenues, said executive director Mary Roselle.
It operates 17 active adult centers in Lucerne and Wyoming counties that offer hot meal, education, socialization, and evidence-based exercise and wellness programs.
Roselle told the board her agency continues to offer many exercise programs online because they became popular when they were launched at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The agency also conducts assessments for residents seeking services at home or in assisted living / long-term care facilities.
In-home options include meals for seniors who are nutritionally at risk or have special nutritional needs. Eligible people receive 12 frozen meals every two weeks in addition to additional groceries.
Other options include aids to help with bathing, grooming, and other personal care and adult child care services that provide a break for caregivers.
Eligible adults can also receive medical supplies, such as nutritional supplements and cleansing wipes.
To receive assistance, residents must participate in an assessment, provide a medical certification form, and complete a financial application to determine if income criteria are met.
The department is asking the county for $ 360,000, which is its total budget.
About 22,000 county veterans and their dependents are receiving help from the office, Director James Spagnola said.
The benefits available include disability awards, war pensions, home loans, education benefits, life insurance and emergency aid.
The department also coordinates federal funeral and funeral assistance, purchases cemetery flags and stands, and offers a $ 100 burial allowance to the county for wartime veterans and their widows, Spagnola said.
In fiscal year 2020/21, the ministry secured $ 3.5 million in new wartime disability awards and retirement benefits, he said. The US Department of Veterans Affairs now spends $ 108.3 million on the county’s two programs each year.
The social services division is also seeking $ 92,470 in county funding for the administrative budget, which stands at $ 2.86 million.
A $ 1 million county match is also requested for a block grant totaling nearly $ 20 million.