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Pierce County to consolidate departments

Post by David Wickert on May 3, 2010 at 11:30 am |
May 3, 2010 11:40 am

Pierce County will consolidate its community services and human services departments as it tries to save money and streamline services.

County Executive Pat McCarthy announced the consolidation this morning.

“We can set up a system that delivers better outcomes, helping more citizens who need our assistance,” McCarthy said in a statement announcing the move. She notified employees in both departments late last week.

The county’s human services department includes services like chemical dependency, mental health and long-term care. Community services covers everything from arts and tourism to homeless assistance and low-income housing.

For several months Deputy Executive Kevin Phelps has led a group studying a possible consolidation of the departments. The group concluded that combining the departments will result in a more effective delivery of services.

Many questions remain to be answered. Among them: how much money, if any, will be saved. The team will spend the next few months creating a detailed implementation plan.

You can view its recommendations to the executive here.

The consolidation of human and community services might be the first phase of a major consolidation of county government. McCarthy ran for executive two years ago on a pledge to improve customer service and find efficiencies in county government.

In addition, the County Council has asked McCarthy to study combining the planning and public works departments. It also has asked the executive to study combining human resources, budget and finance, facilities, risk management and information technology into a new “general services division.”

Reports on those possible consolidations are expected this fall.

You can read today’s announcement of the human services/community services consolidation below.


May 3, 2010

Executive to combine Human Services and Community Services

Executive Pat McCarthy has decided to combine two departments – Community Services and Human Services – into one agency that will streamline and strengthen the delivery of critical services to Pierce County’s most vulnerable residents.

The Executive announced her decision to employees late last week after reviewing the recommendation from a team of county staff. The team studied the processes, customers and affinity among programs that serve the elderly, youth and people with mental or physical impairments.

“We can set up a system that delivers better outcomes, helping more citizens who need our assistance,” Executive McCarthy told the employees. “The staff in these two departments represent the heart of Pierce County government – they are compassionate, mission-driven people who are on the front line every day. This consolidation will improve their strategic planning and produce a more coordinated effort.”

The study was led by Deputy Executive Kevin Phelps and Toby Rickman, the assistant director of the Public Works and Utilities Department. The team included employees of both departments.

The Department of Human Services is responsible for programs that provide aging and long-term care services, mental health services and services to those with developmental disabilities and chemical dependencies.

The Department of Community Services provides housing and other support services to low-income families. The department also manages Pierce County’s involvement with the WSU Pierce County Extension as well as stimulates participation in arts and cultural services.

The consolidation study team identified a number of programs and processes in the two departments that, when coordinated or improved, will result in a more effective delivery of services while also providing opportunities to combine similar functions and operate more efficiently. A summary of the team’s recommendation to the Executive can be found in a link contained here: http://www.piercecountywa.org/cfapps/internet/news.cfm?node_id=101657.

Much work remains to be done. The consolidation team will spend the next few months putting together a detailed implementation plan that includes reviewing facilities and developing a method for evaluating and testing new processes.

“Many important decisions are ahead, including matters involving personnel, office space and even what to name the new department,” Executive McCarthy said. “The workers in these two departments are not the kind of people who shy away from challenges. I know they are ready to tackle this one because of the opportunities it creates to deliver more services to the people in their care.”


Hunter George, Pierce County Communications director



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