Cass County Board: HHV Services sees increase in caseloads

WALKER--Sarah Smythe, income maintenance supervisor in Health, Human and Veterans Services Department, reported to Cass County Board Tuesday on recent increased caseloads.

WALKER-Sarah Smythe, income maintenance supervisor in Health, Human and Veterans Services Department, reported to Cass County Board Tuesday on recent increased caseloads.

Income maintenance eligibility workers process applications and oversee active cases for families and single adults who seek financial assistance and medical assistance, plus those who need child care assistance or long term care.

The implementation of MNsure medical care has contributed to some of this increase, she said.

The county has three eligibility workers at an office Leech Lake Reservation made available to the county at Cass Lake, four workers in the county offices at Backus and 11 workers in the main county office at Walker, Smythe said.

Those handling family cases average 160 to 180 ongoing cases. Those handling adult cases average 400 ongoing cases. Those handling health care handle about 400 ongoing cases, she said.


Workers in Backus and Walker see about 16 visitors to their offices each month. Those in Cass Lake see 83.9 visitors monthly. For this reason, some of the people who apply for assistance at Cass Lake end up with a Walker-based worker assigned to their case once it is activated, Smythe said.

Clients who live closer to Cass Lake but have their case assigned to a Walker eligibility worker can still use a secure drop box at Cass Lake to leave completed applications and forms, she said.

Lack of available private office space is a primary reason the county has not moved more workers to Cass Lake, she said.

HHVS Director Reno Wells said Cass County has looked at cross-sharing clients with neighboring counties, so the clients could use the closest office to their home.

This could benefit Beltrami County residents who live closer to Cass Lake than they do Bemidji. It also could benefit southern Cass residents who live closer to Brainerd than Walker, he said.

However, the state computer system does not allow one county to access a neighboring county's client records. Wells said state officials seemed mystified about why the counties wanted to make services more convenient in this way.

The transition to MNsure's computer system has made it more time consuming for helping clients apply for subsidized insurance programs, Smythe said.

Until now, financial assistance and medical assistance programs have both been recorded into the state computer system through a program called "Maxis." That program accepted one application for both types of help.


Starting this month, all medical program applications must be entered in a MNsure program, meaning two, not one, applications must be completed for each client. The MNsure program has more limitations than Maxis and has been less reliable, Smythe said.

Existing medical cases will be transferred to MNsure during the next year.

HHVS expenses through August ran 1 percent under budget after two-thirds of the year.

Out of home placement costs ran about on budget, but the county's share of those costs was 2 percent over budget at the end of August.

In another program presentation to the county board Tuesday, Lynette Dirks, the sexual violence advocate assigned to Cass County, reported on the help Support Within Reach offers to victims and families of sexual violence.

That program serves Cass, Hubbard, Beltrami and Clearwater counties. It initially started in 1977 as the Sexual Assault Program and served Cass and Beltrami counties. It now also serves Itasca and Aitkin counties.

The Office of Victims of Crime Act, the Office of Justice Programs, Minnesota Department of Health, Bemidji United Way and several small grants fund Support Within Reach, a non-profit agency.

Its mission is "to reduce the impact and harm of sexual violence for individuals and families."


Services are free to anyone and are confidential, Dirks said.

There is a 24-hour crisis line.

Advocates offer their support to victims during medical examinations, through filing reports with law enforcement, through court proceeding and even will give a victim impact statement in court in behalf of the victim.

Advocates can refer a victim and their family to counseling services or, when it is a domestic situation, to protective services.

In 2015, Support Within Reach had a total of 57 client contacts, with 274 services provided.

In 2016, there have been 11 client contacts and 136 services provided to them. The decline was due to the fact an advocate was unavailable at the beginning of the year, Dirks said.

Support Within Reach depends on the help of volunteers who must complete 40 hours of training before joining the program, Kirks added.

The office in Walker is located at 609 Minnesota Ave. W. (Highway 371) and can be reached by phone at 218-444-9524.

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