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DSS addressing caseload by reducing client interaction

By Josh Bergeron

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

Rowan County’s Department of Social Services will only have one caseworker interacting with customers between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. each day.

The change, which takes affect Oct. 21, is specifically designed to help case workers return phone calls and increase efficiency, according to a news release from the DSS. DSS Director Donna Fayko said her department often receives complaints when a caseworker fails to return phone calls and aims to improve on DSS customers’ experience.

“Our agency policy is for staff to return phone calls to customers within 24 hours,” Fayko said. “When staff are constantly seeing customers, it is challenging to actually complete the case processing and documentation required by the system and return phone calls timely. Many customers call multiple people multiple times when they do not receive a return phone call within a few hours.”

Fayko said the multiple calls can create a backlog of messages, which have to be documented.

“It can also have multiple workers processing the same case, which is an inefficient use of time. We want to get our customers benefits for which they are eligible as quickly as possible so it is imperative that we use our time efficiently.”

DSS caseworkers can be responsible for 350 to 1,000 cases, depending on the program, according to the news release. An increased caseload is also part of the reason for the change. The total number of clients for DSS in 2006 ranged from 16,000 to 17,000 per year. Presently, client numbers are 26,000 per year for food stamps and 28,000 per year for Medicaid.

The single caseworkers that are assigned to assist customers between 3 and 5 p.m. will answer questions about applications for benefits, the release stated. There will be no caseworker interviews for customers who only wish to report changes.

In the release, Fayko said all reported changes can be submitted in writing at the reception desk with a scanned receipt.

The changes may not be temporary, as Fayko and DSS staff will review the effectiveness of changes.

“We will be evaluating this process after it has been implemented for a few weeks so that we can determine the overall benefit to the agency and the community,” Fayko said.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246

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