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Funding to decrease for Crow Wing County community services

Crow Wing County stands to lose revenue as a result of outsourcing administration of the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) Tier 3 program. Tim Houle, county administrator, said he was mistaken when he told the Brainerd Dispatch the count...

Crow Wing County stands to lose revenue as a result of outsourcing administration of the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) Tier 3 program.

Tim Houle, county administrator, said he was mistaken when he told the Brainerd Dispatch the county could gain an additional $183,000 in funding by shifting social workers previously assigned to Tier 3 to child and adult protection services. Instead, that figure is how much the county already was receiving as part of targeted case management funding for clients in the Tier 3 program. That funding will be reduced now that Rural Minnesota Concentrated Employment Program (CEP) will be administering the program instead of the county.

The Crow Wing County Board approved an update to the county's contract with CEP to add Tier 3 to its responsibilities on Tuesday.

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Tim Houle, county administrator, said he was mistaken when he told the Brainerd Dispatch the county could gain an additional $183,000 in funding by shifting social workers previously assigned to Tier 3 to child and adult protection services.

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The MFIP is a program to help families with children meet basic needs while assisting parents with financial stability through work. The Tier 3 program identifies MFIP recipients who have the most difficulties becoming employed. Barriers to gainful employment can include mental health issues, physical health issues, chemical dependency or lack of education. Mothers younger than 18 years of age qualifying for MFIP are automatically enlisted in the Tier 3 program.

 

The targeted case management funding supports services that help specific groups of people gain access to needed medical, social, educational and other services, according to the Minnesota Department of Human Services. For the county to receive the funding, drawn from both federal and state coffers, the people served must be on medical assistance. In the Tier 3 program, every client is on medical assistance, so the funding stream was predictable, Houle said.

"As we've redeployed staff in our more early intervention and prevention efforts, some of those people we're going to be meeting with, most assuredly, some volume of them are not going to be on medical assistance," Houle said. "It's not financially beneficial. It's programmatically necessary."

Necessary, Houle said, because child and adult protection services staff were overburdened with a high caseload and needed additional help. The county funded temporary staff in those areas in 2014 but the caseload remained high after those positions ended.

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Since 2006, the Comunity Service department has reduced its staff by 15 FTEs.

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"This is an arena within which we are the only game in town," Houle said. "We thought maybe it was just a hump we had to get over, but those caseloads stayed where they were."

 

Because MFIP social services could be performed elsewhere, community services made the decision to move its staff to those other areas. According to a chart prepared by county financial services, community services, as with the rest of the county departments, has seen a decrease in full-time equivalent (FTE) staff in the last decade. Since 2006, the department has reduced its staff by 15 FTEs.

A community services supervisor told Houle she was confident the county would collect at least half of the $183,000, but how much more was difficult to pinpoint.

In addition, an MFIP grant covering the cost of the Tier 3 social workers' salaries will now go directly to CEP. This means there will be an increase in property tax levy dollars supporting community services.

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In addition, an MFIP grant covering the cost of the Tier 3 social workers' salaries will now go directly to CEP. This means there will be an increase in property tax levy dollars supporting community services.

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Houle said the community services department will still be expected to meet its 2016 budget goals, despite the loss in funding.

"It remains to be seen whether they can meet that goal," Houle said. "All I'm saying is that is the expectation."

He said Kara Terry, community services director, is directing staff to work on solving the issue, but is not ready to present anything concrete.

CHELSEY PERKINS may be reached at 855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchChelsey .

Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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