Human Services holds monthly update meeting

The Marquette County Human Services Board held its monthly meeting on December 14th, getting updates from various department units.

Sue Kohn presented updates for the Veterans Service Office, noting that 25 cases were completed in the past month, with another 62 in progress. Six claims are at the Veterans Board of Appeals and four local veterans have passed away since the November report.

Staff have had several events including Veterans Service Officer Kris Bergh speaking at the Veterans Day observance in Neshkoro and attending a meeting of the Marquette County American Legion Council. There was also a video teleconference with the VA Pension Management Center and a presentation from Heartland Hospice on programs for veterans and surviving spouses. Kohn participated in a virtual meeting with the Madison VA Hospital as well.

The office submitted four articles to the Marquette County Tribune and Kohn was interviewed by the newspaper for a feature about her role in the office. Kohn reported that Bergh will be applying for the 2022 Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs CVSO grant, which is expected to increase from $8,500 to $9,350 for the coming year. Also, VA benefits to veterans are increasing 6% for 2022.

Reporting for the Human Services Unit, Director Mandy Stanley reported they have posted ads in various places for 2022 new positions. She said three dining sites are now open limited days but they will need to fill open positions for a dining site facilitator and dining transport in order to expand the number of open sites around the county, as well as the number of days they are open.

The management team will look at recruitment needs for current staff vacancies and see if there are any other venues they can use to post employment notices. They are currently using a combination of online services, professional group sites, and print advertising.

Board member Judi Nigbor commented that she liked seeing the “We’re Growing” headline on the print ads. Stanley said they are trying to be more creative in attracting candidates, especially when there are so many openings at one time.

COVID continues to impact her staff with exposures, illness, school classrooms at times going virtual, and childcare shutting down for some employees. “Unfortunately, it’s not over yet,” Stanley told the committee.

Jennifer Vote reported that the food bank served 575 households this past month. She estimates show there would be a total of around 1,100 eligible households in Marquette County.

Jan Krueger reported for the Aging & Disability Unit that the transportation program was planning a mid-December shopping trip for clients to the Plover area. They were seeking a citizen member for the Aging Disability Resource Center Advisory Committee, as well as a member for the Transportation Coordinating Committee. Applications for those closed December 15th. The department had 151 individuals call them in November and saw 570 different users go the ADRC website. The Oxford Dining Site resumed serving meals after the heating system there was repaired. The department was awarded a grant to purchase a bariatric wheelchair lift for a van.

Dave Benson reported for the Transportation Coordinating Committee that in the quarter from July to September, there were 804 total riders in the vans. Medical appointments accounted for 697 of those, 74 were categorized as nutrition related, and 28 were social/recreational. Vans logged 41,894 miles.

Jessie Cody reported that Children & Family Services Unit was extremely busy in November. There were 18 new reports that came in, with nine of those being screened. One-third of the screenings were same-day responses, which she said meant the situation presented a significant safety threat. In October, one county child was in out-of-home care but Cody said since then there have been seven more placements. “We are doing our best to keep afloat,” she told the committee. “It’s a struggle but we’re pushing through.”

Committee members briefly talked about the stresses these cases present to social workers and asked what measures are in place to help them deal with difficult and traumatic cases. Stanley said several things are available, from formal debriefings between herself and staff, which are done on a fairly regular basis, to those done immediately when needed. They can also call on other counties to help with debriefings, as well as formal therapy options. She added, “It’s about knowing your staff and seeing when something seems off,” to help them cope when these events happen.

Dawn Woodard reported for the Clinical Services Unit, saying the Consumer Group had recently prepared holiday cards for residents of Montello Care Center, Harris Villa and some home-delivered meal participants. “We found that they really enjoy the idea that they can give back to their community,” she told the committee.

New telehealth rules go into place January 1st, so Clinical Services will be updating their policies accordingly. Woodard said state guidelines were loosened up so telehealth appointments could replace many face-to-face meetings during the height of COVID, and some of those rules are now becoming permanent.

She also reported some substance abuse statistics for Marquette County from a state dashboard site. The county experienced 17 deaths attributed to opioid use between 2016 and 2020. She added that there have been 12 opioid overdoses reported in 2021 and 29 doses of Narcan administered by the County EMS.

County rates for methamphetamine overdoses was 2 people per 100,000 population in those statistics, while cocaine overdose deaths were 4 in 100,000.

Regarding alcohol use, Marquette County is rated as the 11th highest county in the state for the rate of alcohol-attributable deaths between 2016 and 2020. During those four years, there were 335 chronic alcohol related emergency room visits and 410 inpatient admissions for alcohol related illnesses.

Annett Mooney, reporting for the Economic & Child Support Unit, noted that the Child Support staff helped at the food bank with the Thanksgiving food distribution. In November, they had 74 applications for Food Share, 20 of which were priority applications that needed to be processed within 48 hours. They also received 50 healthcare application.

Energency Assistance saw 519 applications so far for the winter season, and 444 of those have been approved. They have issued 12 crisis payments, and have done two furnace repairs and two furnace replacements.

Mooney reported that the State was approved for emergency Food Share Supplements that became available December 19th, and are based on household size. She also noted that Social Security benefits are increasing 5.9% in January, alongside an increase in the cost of Medicare premiums.