Dss Is Uncertain How Bill Would Affect Local Offices

February 24, 1991|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff writer

Applicants for Medicaid or welfare will continue to go to 10 Distillery Drive in Westminster even if the legislature changes the state administration of those programs, said M. Alexander Jones, director of the Carroll County Department of Social Services.

No one knows what effect, if any, a proposed reorganization would have on local DSS operations, Jones said.

Whatever the impact, people would still apply for Medicaid at one office in the county and most likely the same office where they would apply for income-maintenance programs, such as general welfare and Aid to Families with Dependent Children, Jones said.

People now apply for those programs at the DSS office. A DSS worker also is stationed at Carroll County General Hospital to take Medicaid applications from patients there.

A bill from Gov. William Donald Schaefer's office proposes to shift responsibilities at the state level only. The shift would move Medicaid and income-maintenance programs from the state Department of Human Resources to a new state agency to be called the Department of Income and Health Security.

David Pyle, a member of the Carroll DSS board of directors, wonders whether the reorganization would just add another layer of bureaucracy. He said it should be studied longer before a decision is made.

"I can see it making things more complex," said Pyle, who lives inFinksburg and tracks legislation for the all-volunteer board. "I'm not sure we're going to wind up saving any money. Every time they do these simplifying things, we wind up with more bureaucracy."

The move would streamline the Medicaid program at the state level. The administration of the program is divided now between DHR, which through the local DSS determines whether a person is eligible, and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which makes the payments to health-care providers and determines policy.

The reorganization would mean the local DSS would report to the secretary of the Department of Human Resources for its social programs, such as foster care and protective services for children and adults. The DSS also wouldreport to the secretary of the Department of Income and Health Security for the welfare, Medicaid and child-support collection.

Currently the DSS reports to the DHR for all those programs.

Politics could be another problem, if the secretaries of not just one but two state agencies have power to hire and fire the local director of DSS, Pyle said.

Pyle already is lobbying against another bill that would hand over that authority from local boards of social services to the secretary of the Department of Human Resources. Because the secretary is appointed by the governor, it is a political position, Pyle said.

Giving that person control over the local directors would extend that political hold into the local social service offices, Pyle said.

Local boards, made up of citizens appointed by the county commissioners, are in a better position to hire or fire a director because they represent the community, Pyle said. They currently must hire a director from a state "merit system" list of people who qualify for directorships through their education and certification.

"We know our needs, we know our local priorities," Pyle said. "We don't want to be a rubber stamp and just sit there and be told what to do."

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