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Brunswick will follow UNCW path to consolidate DSS, health boards

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By Brian Slattery

Brunswick County will look to the University of North Carolina Wilmington as a model for consolidating services provided by the health and social services departments.

Brunswick County commissioners voted to consolidate the board of health and the department of social services boards into a single agency after a Sept. 17 hearing.

“Seven weeks ago you decided to consolidate health and social services,” assistant county manager Steve Stone told commissioners Monday night.

“(Since then) there has been a lot of work to do. We met with the interim social services director and the entire staff of health services and social services.”

Stone said a joint management team from the two departments, which included 30 people, met to start discussing consolidation.

He said they began discussing what activities and programs to pursue and determine who is eligible for them.

“We’re asking the advisory board to look at the needs of the staff and the agency needs so they can tell you what they need,” Stone said.

He added that the group also discussed if it can legally share information electronically, so clients don’t have to “jump through hoops” to get services.

Stone pointed out in researching the merger, they learned UNC-Wilmington merged its health, nursing and social services schools with the College of Health and Human Services.

Stone told the board it could use the college’s experience to benefit its own transition.

“We have talked to them, and they will help us establish benchmarks,” he said.

“That’s a great idea to utilize the college,” board chairman Bill Sue said.

Stone also said part of the consolidation will be implementing a rigorous evaluation of programs.

“We don’t have that now,” he said.

County staff has already received more than 20 applications to fill 11 slots on the human services advisory board, but they are still in need of an optometrist and a pharmacist to be on the board.

A search for a social services director began in October. The county will take applications through Nov. 21. Teams from both the health and social services departments will be involved in the selection process.

“We met with the staff to determine the professional qualifications and personal qualities needed for the job,” Stone said.

Stone said the group intends to create a new name and logo for the combined services—deciding Brunswick County Health and Human Services would be the most appropriate choice.

“They will (create a logo) in-house. No money will be spent on it,” Stone said.

Commissioner Phil Norris said he attended the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners Board of Directors’ meeting and received a lot of comments about the DSS Health Department merger.

“There is a lot of interest in the program consolidation here. I expect we’ll get a lot of calls to the county manager,” Norris said. 

 

Brian Slattery is a staff writer for The Brunswick Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or bslattery@brunswickbeacon.com.