Poloncarz seeks to reorganize county’s Social Services Department - The Buffalo News

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Poloncarz seeks to reorganize county’s Social Services Department

Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz on Tuesday submitted a resolution to the County Legislature seeking its permission to conduct the first overhaul of the Department of Social Services in several years.

The proposed streamlining of the department includes the creation of a new seven-member Child Protective Services team and the addition of three new management positions.

Poloncarz said the plan will not upend the department’s budget, as unexpended funds will be used to cover the cost of the reorganization.

The aim, he said, is the transformation of Social Services from a largely reactive organization into one that is more proactive and forward-leaning.

“A re-engineered Department of Social Services will better position Erie County to be more flexible and adaptable in dealing with poverty issues, helping residents to achieve independence,” Poloncarz said in statement Tuesday.

Peter Anderson, a spokesman for the county executive, said the reorganization is intended to coincide with new regulations imposed by the Affordable Care Act that will be going into effect by 2015.

“New York State will be taking over Medicaid in 2014, and the new framework will help the county in dealing with its cases when the state takes over the administration of Medicaid,” Anderson said.

He said the Department of Social Services has seen an increase in its annual caseloads, which the reorganization will help address by streamlining the process for reviewing and approving applications.

“We’ve seen caseloads going up with (less) personnel than ever to handle them. So the reorganization will address that and make the Department of Social Services more forward-leaning in dealing with the cases that come before them,” Anderson said.

Social Services is, by far, the largest department in county government, with more than 2,000 employees and an annual budget of $578 million, approximately half of the county’s more than $1 billion yearly budget.

In addition to its Medicaid unit, other social services programs include Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; the Home Energy Assistance Program, or HEAP; the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; Child and Adult Protective Services; and Juvenile Justice Services.

The proposed reorganization will realign Social Services in three broad divisions: Public Assistance, Individual Protection and Administrative Support.

The Legislature is scheduled to take up the resolution at its regular session at 2 p.m. Thursday in Legislature Chambers at Old County Hall, 92 Franklin St.

email: hmcneil@buffnews.com

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