County's Social Services Department undegoes reorganization
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz says the reorganization of the Department of Social Services is complete. The goal is to make the county's largest department more flexible and proactive.
DSS, which has an annual budget of nearly $580 million, has been realigned into three broad divisions: Public Assistance, Individual Protection and Administrative Support. As a result, three new executive managers have been hired.
Social Services Commissioner Carol Dankert-Maurer says DSS serves about a quarter of the county's residents.
"Erie County has caseloads that exceed recommended numbers and our caseloads are higher than what you would find in comparable counties," says Dankert-Maurer.
"So we really have got to spend some time and some energy getting ahead of this work paying attention to who's coming in our door and looking for ways that we can provide services to those individuals that prevent their dependence on our system and also help them to be self-sufficient."
Dankert-Maurer says the new managers bring a level of expertise to the department that it did not previously have. The reorganization created a new seven-member Child Protective Service team and she says it was all budget neutral.
"We found ways to repurpose existing dollars in our budget, so there were no additional costs. I believe that if we continue to focus on all of these program areas our goals and objectives will be to reduce some of the caseloads and at the same time reduce some of the local share," she adds.
Dankert-Maurer says the reorganization also builds a more flexible and resilient department the can act more quickly to address residents' needs in a timely manner.