Haywood considers integration of county departments
Haywood County is moving slowly towards consolidating its Department of Social Services and Health Department to save money and become more efficient.
Last year, the N.C. General Assembly approved legislation that allows counties to combine the two departments into one Department of Human Services. Previously, only Mecklenburg and Wake counties were allowed to have consolidated health and social services departments.
Since then, a Haywood County task force has looked into integrating the two. The county already took a big step toward a more streamlined organization in 2011 when the departments moved into the same new offices in the old Walmart building in Clyde.
Thus far, county leaders have overwhelmingly supported the idea.
“I think there are positive benefits from this,” said County Commissioner Mike Sorrells.
By integrating the health department and DSS, the county could eliminate duplicate positions, cut overhead expenses and share client information. The different departments have already performed a “desk audit” to see what positions could be possibly eliminated or consolidated and what jobs are necessary. They still need to develop a plan for cross-training employees on health department and DSS duties to better serve people.
“I think your client services would be much improved,” said Commissioner Chairman Mark Swanger.
The Haywood County Board of Commissioners unanimously agreed to move forward with a public hearing, the next step in the process, to see what resident think about the possible integration.
After that, the task force has already created a list of recommended steps that the county will need to take before a consolidation is finalized. Among the 16 steps are overhauling the departments’ personnel policies, creating a financial plan for indirect costs associated with the integration, seeking guidance from the state Department of Health and Human Services budget office, creating a Human Services Support Team that includes IT, finance and human resources personnel, compiling a mutual client list and reinvesting any initial cost savings back into the consolidation effort.
The task force has also suggested auditing the departments’ information systems no matter what happens.
“We are recommending this be done regardless of your decision,” said Ira Dove, director of Haywood County DSS.