2013 Director's Messages
2013 Director's Messages
|December 23, 2013: Happy Holidays||12/26/2013 3:44 PM|
Few times of the year present a better opportunity to learn about different cultural traditions than winter does.
We can easily overlook the depth of the diversity present in America during this season. In reality, many different events – based in cultural, spiritual and religious traditions -- are being celebrated in many different ways during this time of year:
- Al-Hijra (Muharram)
- Native American Remembrance Day
- Bodhi Day (Rohatsu)
- Winter Solstice
- Dōngzhì Festival
- Pancha Ganapati
- Las Posadas
- New Year's Eve
- and many others – just take a look at this list of cultural or religious observances -- Maybe this is the year to take a chance to expand the conversation at parties and at the dinner table?
No matter what your family or cultural tradition at this time of year, I want to wish you and yours very happy holidays and extend a heartfelt thank you for your service to the people of Oregon.
|December 16, 2013: Director’s Excellence Award||12/17/2013 1:53 PM|
|December 9, 2013: Complex Problems and Culture Change||12/9/2013 10:27 AM|
To: All DHS Staff & Stakeholders
Message from DHS Director Erinn Kelley-Siel
I was invited to speak last week at one of the “Lunch and Learn” discussions organized by our Aspiring Leaders Program (ALP), attended by about 20 aspiring leaders from DHS and OHA, to talk about adaptive leadership. What struck me the most about that discussion was the progress both agencies are making to change our work culture around how we solve complex problems.
Let me tell you why that’s important.
The business of human services delivery, the work we all do every day, is more complex than ever before. In the past, we could solve problems by simply hiring an extra staffer or adding a new field to a form. Those days are long gone. In a tough economic environment with dynamic changes in our state's demographics, we are being asked to tackle bigger problems – poverty, equity, family stability, long-term supports, and others. The "new normal" we are working in requires a different way of thinking and working together. Our leadership model talks about “leading from every chair,” and that’s what it takes to tackle the big changes we are working on now.
Thinking about adaptive leadership and our leadership model, I asked the ALP group, “Do you see examples of this in practice in DHS and OHA?”
Here are some samples of what I heard back:
- “I’ve seen a lot of change, especially in managers asking a lot more questions, not just telling you what the solution is. You get better decisions because you get to them through collaboration. You know you own part of the decision.”
- “It is a culture change, and I see it in several programs I work with. It’s much more about understanding why than just trying to solve a problem quickly.”
- “I really see a safer environment to raise issues with my work team, and it seems like managers are trying to hear from everyone in making a decision.”
When I hear examples like these, I am encouraged that we are seeing results from our commitment to thinking about our challenges in a bigger way that includes more voices. And that means that even in this new normal, we can make meaningful progress in our work helping Oregonians to be safe, healthy and independent.
Let me hear from you, too. Do you see evidence of new and better decision making in your own office or work unit? Pass along your story, and I’ll include it in a future message. Thank you for your work and your efforts to adapt your thinking to a new way of solving the challenges we face.
|November 18, 2013: Data Points Measure Success, Represent Real People||11/18/2013 9:01 AM|
Message from DHS Director Erinn Kelley-Siel
To: All DHS Staff & Stakeholders
One of the great things about being an organization that is committed to measuring the results we get for Oregonians is that we get to celebrate when those data points show us the good work you’re doing. So let me just share a few with you so you keep in mind in this time of incredible change that the hard work you’re doing is paying off and making an impact in the lives of Oregonians:
- Did you know that in one month over 1,000 TANF recipients got jobs for the first time in many, many months since the recession started?
- Did you know that for the sixth year in a row Oregon had fewer children experiencing foster care?
- Did you know that the Youth Transition Program in Vocational Rehabilitation was recognized as one of the top ten employment programs in the world? Yes, I said the world, not just the country.
- Did you know that the number of calls of reports of financial exploitation of seniors has gone up statewide as a result of the incredible amount of work the APS team has done to promote the issue with the media and the public?
- Did you know that in May and June there was almost a nine percent decrease in seniors and people with disabilities who were placed in nursing facilities, so they got to stay then at home and in community-based settings?
All of these things connect back to our core mission of safety, health and independence for all Oregonians, and every one of those data points represents a person. A person in the community who had a better life experience because of what you do. A child who got to stay home with a family and avoid the trauma of removal. A senior who got to maintain their dignity and independence and stay home as long as they possible could with the right supports. An able-bodied person or a person with a disability who got to experience the pride and reward of going to work and know what it’s like to have that fulfillment and that sense of accomplishment.
I want to thank you because those data points, those experiences for people, happen because you’re working hard to make it happen. Thank you for your hard work – celebrate those accomplishments this week and feel good about what you do. You’re making a difference.
|November 8, 2013: 2013 Veterans Day Holiday||11/8/2013 9:58 AM|
Special Message from DHS Director Erinn Kelley-Siel
On Monday, November 11, we join together as a nation to celebrate Veterans Day, a time when all of us have the opportunity to reflect on the fundamental principles we believe in and stand for as citizens of this beautiful state and country. It is also a time to remember that our liberty survives today because of the honorable men and women who have served in the past and present -- and their commitment to our freedom and independence.
As I do each year, I encourage everyone to take time to remember all those who have worn the uniform of the United States and to remember those who have given their lives in service to our country and our freedom. I would also like to personally extend my gratitude to those DHS staff who have served our country, and to those of you who have family members who have served or who are serving today.
Finally, I applaud the Governor and the Legislature for their action during the 2013 legislative session and the passage of SB 1 that makes Veterans Day a holiday for all veterans – including those who work for private employers. It’s a good example of government in Oregon doing the right thing for all the right reasons.
To all of you, I wish you a great Veterans Day holiday and a great weekend!
|November 4, 2013: Try Harder or Try Differently?||11/4/2013 8:54 AM|
To: All DHS Staff
From: DHS Director Erinn Kelley-Siel
I think many of you saw the Governor’s news release or Dr. Goldberg’s message last week about additional efforts to boost health care enrollment by January 1, especially through the use of paper applications. They both also mentioned the success we’re seeing with “Fast Track” enrollments that have signed up 70,000 more low-income people for the Oregon Health Plan -- so that innovative approach is working very well!
It made me think about something I read a long time ago. When you have a goal you are working to reach but find obstacles in your way, you can either try harder or you can try differently. Think about that for a minute. . .
I know that sometimes when I find myself stalled in a project, my first thought is that I need to try harder. I just need to put in more time and effort, and I’ll break through whatever it is that is causing the problem. Sometimes that works, for sure. But other times, I realize I need to step back and take a fresh look at what I’m doing and the way I’m doing it. I need to address the problem from a different angle. I need to try differently.
More and more in our work, we find ourselves looking at ways to do our work differently. That’s what those Breakthroughs are all about (Modernization, Differential Response, Long-Term Services and Supports, Employment, Service Equity, and others). They are all efforts to achieve the outcomes we want for our clients and customers by changing the way we provide those programs and services.
It is undeniable that since the beginning of the recession back in 2007-08, we’ve worked hard! But looking toward the future, we are all working together to thoughtfully and intentionally change to the way we approach our work to continuously improve our service delivery and the experience of those we serve. And remember, almost every one of the changes we are working on is driven by feedback from DHS consumers, staff and stakeholders!
The goals haven’t changed, and we’re still working hard, but we’re also thinking about our work differently. As the Governor said last Friday, “We are going to do whatever it takes to get this done for Oregonians.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Have a great week everyone.
|October 28, 2013: You Have Powerful Voices||10/28/2013 12:40 PM|
|October 21, 2013: The Big Picture (or how to get back to the real work after the government shutdown)||10/21/2013 12:53 PM|
To: All DHS Staff and Stakeholders
Now that the latest distractions are behind us for now (my fingers are crossed for good luck!), I want to make sure that we maintain our focus on our key strategic efforts that are designed to help us get more and better outcomes for all of the individuals and families we serve. It can be easy to get sidetracked by the crisis of the moment, and of course we have to deal with those events because they are often very serious. But, as important as it is to be prepared and respond in a crisis, it’s also critically important that we stay focused on advancing our own priorities.
So today I want to give you another of those “print and post” handouts to help you keep your eye on the Big Picture. I think it’s helpful to have a visual reminder of the important work we are all doing. You’ll find a PDF attached to today’s message with brief descriptions of the five Breakthroughs that will help us improve our outcomes for clients and customers. I encourage you to print it out and post it in your work area. It’s a one-page summary of five crucial initiatives that are driving our work for the next two years and beyond. Of course, there’s more work going on than just these five areas. These are just the biggest ones with the biggest potential impact on the people outside the agency. They are listed below:
- Child Welfare Interventions are Transformed through Implementation of Differential Response
This Breakthrough Team is working with the Child Welfare Program and community partners to design and implement an alternate approach for responding to reports of child abuse and neglect, while ensuring that children remain safe. This approach depends on making referrals to appropriate local service providers to improve the family’s ability to address issues that may lead to abuse and neglect. The end result will be more children remaining safely at home with their families.
- Employment Outcomes for DHS Customers are Increased
Many of the clients and customers we work with have barriers to getting and keeping a job that could help them support themselves their families. This team is working on a variety of actions that will increase the number and quality of jobs for DHS clients and customers. The focus is on finding or creating jobs in integrated community settings in industries and occupations that can provide fulfillment and help people be more independent.
- Long-Term Services and Support are Sustainable and Meet the Needs of Oregonians
Many Oregonians who are aging or have physical, intellectual or developmental disabilities require our long-term assistance in order to remain safe and healthy. This team is working with staff and community partners to create a state-of-the-art system of services and supports, with the goal of designing and implementing a flexible set of services that can deliver exactly what each individual may need at the right time and place for that person.
- Program Outcomes and Service Delivery are Improved through Modernized Systems
This Breakthrough Team is working to design and implement strategies to improve the delivery of human services, better achieve outcomes and provide better customer service by using modernized technology systems and creative business processes in DHS offices. The goal is to provide the best customer service in the most effective, efficient way possible for every program at the agency.
- Service Equity is Improved
Each and every one who is eligible deserves the public services that DHS provides. This team is working to help us create a culture that provides equitable service to Oregonians by customizing the delivery of human services for each individual we serve. This Breakthrough will examine our organizational culture and structure, and recommend how to overcome barriers that presently cloud our equity lens in providing services.
Keep your eye on the Big Picture -- and if you must have to deal with a short-term crisis, then address it and get right back to the bigger work that makes the biggest difference!
Thank you and have a great week!
Isn't this fall weather just amazing?
|October 17, 2013: Liesl Wendt to take leave as SSP Director to fill interim position on Multnomah County Commission||10/17/2013 10:06 AM|
To: All DHS Staff and Oregon Stakeholders
This is to let everyone know that, effective next week, Liesl Wendt, Director of the DHS Self Sufficiency Program, will be taking a leave of absence from the Oregon Department of Human Services in order to replace Multnomah County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury until elections are held in May.
In Multnomah County, each Commissioner designates a replacement in case they cannot fulfill their elected term. Liesl was designated as Commissioner Kafoury’s designee prior to joining DHS as Self Sufficiency Director. Kafoury has announced her intention to resign from the County Commission in order to run for the position of County Chair, leaving Liesl to serve as Kafoury’s interim replacement until a new Commissioner is elected in May 2014.
Liesl joined the agency in January, 2013, bringing a wealth of expertise in human services and community engagement to this position. As SSP Director, Liesl has been responsible for directing the agency’s programs designed to help families achieve economic security with temporary supports for their most basic needs, such as food, health insurance coverage and child care, while working to meet their employment goals. Prior to her tenure at DHS, Liesl served as the Chief Executive Officer of 211Info, where she led its statewide expansion initiative. Before that, she was the Vice President of External Relations at the Chalkboard Project, Director of Neighborhood Engagement in the Office of Portland Mayor Tom Potter, Initiative Coordinator for United Way of the Columbia Willamette, Education Program Manager for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and an advocate for the Oregon Food Bank and the Oregon Hunger Relief Task Force.
I applaud Liesl's commitment to the citizens of Multnomah County, and I look forward to her continued service to all Oregonians when she returns to DHS after the May elections.
Please join me in wishing Liesl all the best in this new role!
|October 14, 2013: Update on Federal Government Shutdown||10/14/2013 1:44 PM|
To: All DHS Staff and Stakeholders
I know that you are all aware and concerned about the ongoing budget discussions in Washington, D.C. and the partial shutdown of the federal government, so I wanted to provide you with this update. I wish I had more detailed information to share, but I will keep you posted with the latest, most accurate information I have. That information can change, and when it does you have my commitment that I will get it out to you ASAP.
Here’s what I know:
- We continue to take this one-day-at-a-time and do our best to keep our staff and stakeholders informed. There is good news in the fact that there are some discussions happening, but overall the situation remains very fluid – and we don’t yet know everything about what may happen.
- I can assure you that the Department of Human Services is in nearly constant contact with our state and federal partners, and we are continuing to develop contingency plans for a variety of scenarios in order to be better prepared for what may happen.
- Up to now, we have not experienced any interruptions to our major federally funded programs because we have been able to use “currently available” balances to continue to operate through the month of October. We will continue to base our actions on the direction we receive from the federal agencies that fund our programs. As of today, we have not been notified of any federal requirement to end programs or services.
I wish there were more details to share, but I wanted you to have the best information I have at this time. Thank you for the work you do every day – and especially during this very unusual federal government shutdown!
|October 2, 2013: DHS announces new Tribal Affairs Director/Senior Indian Child Welfare Manager: Nadja Jones||10/2/2013 11:27 AM|I am pleased to announce that Nadja Jones has accepted the position of Department of Human Services Director of Tribal Affairs/Senior Indian Child Welfare Manager in the Office of the DHS Director.
Most recently, Nadja has served as the Community Engagement Coordinator for the Youth Development Council within the Oregon Education Investment Board. Before that, Nadja worked for 11 years as the Senior Community Development Specialist with the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA). She will begin her work for DHS on October 21.
In her new role, Nadja will report directly to Director Erinn Kelley-Siel and will provide direction and oversight focusing on the government-to-government relationship between DHS and Oregon's nine Federally Recognized Tribes, and Tribes outside Oregon. The Director of Tribal Affairs has special responsibility with respect to the state's compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act, but her work will broadly include all services DHS provides. In her role, Nadja will be charged to especially consider opportunities to eliminate disparities and enhance Department and Tribal efforts to promote the health, safety and independence of Native Americans living in Oregon.
“Nadja's experience positions her for success in this very critical role,” Kelley-Siel said. “Her ability to build and sustain relationships -- within the Tribes, with partner communities, and with state staff -- will help DHS and the Tribes in our efforts to improve the lives of the Native people we serve. Her expertise and passion will help us better design and deliver important programs and services and help DHS to be the best partner we can be to Oregon’s Tribes."
Nadja has a bachelor’s degree in social work from Buffalo State College (New York) and a master’s degree in social work with a specialized concentration in ICWA policy and administration from Arizona State University. Her professional experience includes a variety of health and human services collaborative and focused work with Native American agencies in New York, Arizona, Minnesota, Washington and Oregon. In addition, she has served on numerous advisory committees related to Indian Child Welfare Act issues.
Nadja is a married mother of two beautiful Cayuse teen daughters and a full grown Comanche son, who is a veteran. She is an enrolled member of the Comanche tribe and was raised in the Longhouse of the Iroquois Confederacy. She enjoys cultural traditions, running in a straight line, and finding humor every day. She is also an accomplished home chef.
Please join me in welcoming Nadja to her new role!
|September 30, 2013: We All Have a Part to Play in "Fast Track" Enrollment||9/30/2013 9:17 AM|
To: All DHS Staff and Stakeholders
Last week, I talked about the big change that’s coming with the increased access to the Oregon Health Plan via "Fast Track" enrollment. Many of the people we serve will qualify for fast track into the OHP, and we are focused on helping ensure that this change is a success. Whether your work in program eligibility or not, I believe we all can pull together to benefit our fellow Oregonians. Helping to enroll more of the people we serve into health coverage is a great leap ahead in our vision of safety, health and independence for all Oregonians.
Federal health reform allows people to start enrolling tomorrow (October 1) for coverage that begins January 1, 2014. About 260,000 DHS customers and clients have received fast-track enrollment consent letters in the mail. Fast-track enrollment is available to resident Oregonians who qualify for food benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or health care benefits for their children through Healthy Kids/OHP, and meet the OHP fast-track income guidelines. For those receiving OHP fast-track letters, all they need to do is return their completed letters to get enrolled in health care coverage. It’s that simple!
Our role in supporting medical programs may be changing, but it’s just as important as before. We all have a part to play, and here's how you can help:
I'm asking folks in every DHS office to check with clients and customers who call or come into a DHS office and encourage them to return their "fast track" forms, if they received a letter. It's the fastest and simplest way for them to get health coverage. Whether you're in Astoria or Albany, Hood River or Hillsboro, Brookings or Baker City, if we all support people in taking action on their "fast track" forms, it means better health for the people we serve. We are 8,000 employees who can have a positive impact on the health and well-being of individuals and families. That's what we do in human services, and I know that's why you come to work each day.
Have a great week, and let’s all work together to help Oregon continue to lead the nation in health system transformation – because it’s good for the people we serve.
Important PS: We are also asking for help to get out another message -- that is, not everyone receiving SNAP or with children in OHP will qualify for fast-track enrollment. That's because their income exceeds the limit for the Oregon Health Plan. There are more than 800,000 people on SNAP, and Fast Track enrollment is available to only a portion of them. But through Cover Oregon, there will be financial assistance available to help them buy coverage on the commercial market.
Here are some of the basics that you can use in your conversations:
• Read the letter SNAP participants who qualify for fast-track enrollment received
• Access the letter and fact sheet from the Fast-track Enrollment Webpage
|September 23, 2013: Change of Seasons Brings Changes for Oregon, DHS||9/23/2013 12:55 PM|
To: All DHS Staff and Stakeholders
Just yesterday, we officially welcomed in the new season, and many people feel that autumn is the most beautiful time of year in Oregon. The changing season is a good metaphor for the changes happening in our state and in our agency this fall, too. The biggest change that’s coming is the increased access to the Oregon Health Plan. Open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for the Oregon Health Plan begins next week, and coverage will begin January 1, 2014. Governor Kitzhaber said at the time the Legislature approved the increase, "This opens the Oregon Health Plan to more low-income Oregonians in 2014, ending the health care lottery that created health care winners and losers. Combined with the coming launch of Cover Oregon, the state’s health insurance exchange, this means we are on our way to 95 percent of Oregonians having coverage, increasing their economic security and reducing medical debt, which is good for the whole state.”
Assisting more Oregonians to be healthy is fundamental to our mission here at DHS, and some people we serve will qualify for “fast-track” enrollment. If they meet the qualifications for the Oregon Health Plan, people who have already qualified for food benefits through the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) or who have children in the Oregon Health Plan will receive a letter with a “fast-track” enrollment form. If they return it, they are enrolled in the Oregon Health Plan. They will not have to go through an additional application process at all. Their SNAP eligibility itself will qualify them for the “fast track” to OHP coverage!
OHA will be sending letters to about 230,000 SNAP clients and customers, letting them know how to enroll through this process. You will be receiving more information about that process this week, so you can be prepared to answer any questions that might come your way from the people and families we serve.
An additional change this fall you may have already heard about from your District or Program Manager is that we have decided to slow down the roll-out of Oregon Benefits Online, the new web-based system for SNAP application and eligibility. This decision will allow us to concentrate our support on the identification and enrollment of DHS customers who will become eligible for medical coverage through the increased access to the Oregon Health Plan I talked about earlier. Although we’ll be focusing on OHP enrollment over the next few weeks, we’ll still be working toward a successful implementation of Oregon Benefits Online, but at a slower pace.
What does this mean for local offices? Well, the slowdown will mean we’ll continue to do “business as usual” for SNAP, and the use of our current on-line application (CAP/CAPI) will continue. Medical eligibility will see some things stay the same, and some things change. APD will retain APD medical programs, but the remainder of medical will go to OHA/5503 (Office of Client and Community Services).
A detailed breakdown by medical type will be coming in e-mail communications and transmittals this week, including who will have responsibility for which programs.
For our customers and clients, they will be able to come into our offices for services, or they can apply online for benefits as they do now. In addition, they will have the opportunity to apply for medical only via the Cover Oregon website or by calling the 5503 processing center.
With everything going on this fall, the decision to “tap the brakes” on Oregon Benefits Online gives us a welcome chance to increase our focus as well as to settle into some of the changes that have already happened.
To everyone, thank you for all your work and your willingness to engage in the changes that bring improvements to the work we do, the way we do it and the individuals and families we serve.
|September 20, 2013: Update of Governor's Workforce System Transformation||9/20/2013 10:41 AM|
As you know, our ability to support the people we serve in creating and achieving employment goals has a direct impact on their economic stability and ability to be safe, healthy and independent. That's why I want to keep you informed about how Oregon state government is working to improve outcomes for Oregon job seekers and businesses.
Last year, the Oregon Workforce Investment Board (OWIB) - which represents state and local agencies, Oregon businesses, workers and elected officials - adopted a 10-year strategic plan for workforce development in Oregon. The plan includes goals, strategies and outcomes at the state level and in communities throughout the state.
In support of that plan, the Governor's Office, DAS and workforce agencies such as ours have engaged PFM - an outside team of experts with organizational redesign and business process experience - to analyze and make recommendations on the structural and process changes needed.
Over the past several months, PFM collected information from us and talked with DHS staff and contractors from programs connected to the state's workforce system. PFM learned about the job training and job search services we offer through our TANF program and SNAP, as well as those in our Senior Community Service Employment Program and Vocational Rehabilitation.
The contractor's findings and recommendations will be presented to the OWIB later today. We are sharing them with you first as some of the recommendations could have a direct impact on our agency, if implemented. Recommendations include:
- Create a shared vision, system outcomes and measures
- Define the governance and accountability structure
- Integrate service delivery at the state level (A single state workforce agency)
- Integrate local service delivery (Local and WorkSource centers)
- Enhance information technology support for service delivery
- Enhance administrative support for service delivery
I want to underscore that at this point, these are contractor recommendations only. That said, we are bringing them forward for input because we feel they deserve consideration.
I want to hear what you think about the PFM recommendations. Through October, we will engage staff - and a variety of other stakeholders - to gather feedback on the recommendations. Every one of us brings a unique perspective on this work and I encourage you to follow along, review the recommendations and offer feedback.
Specifically, I want to know whether you think the PFM recommendations, if implemented, would help us achieve our desired outcomes; what implementation challenges you see and how we could overcome them, and if there are additional steps you think the state should take.
More detailed information about feedback opportunities will be available next week. That feedback will inform a staff recommendation that we anticipate bringing to the OWIB at their November meeting. I look forward to hearing your take on the recommendations.
Look for more information from me and DHS program directors as we move forward in this important initiative.
In addition, as we go forward to gather input and consider next steps in the process, we'll post updates.
Thanks for all you do,
|September 9, 2013: Framework for Change||9/9/2013 10:18 AM|
Last week in my Labor Day message I mentioned the DHS Executive Team’s work to focus our priorities and strategically add some new staff positions. As we get closer to the details of those change efforts, I am reminded of the need to also stay focused on the big picture, including the "what" and the "why" behind the changes we are making.
As you know better than anyone, there are lots of moving pieces here – between our important ongoing work, our Breakthrough Initiatives and the new work authorized by the Oregon Legislature and Governor through the budget process, I would say that every single area of the agency is involved in at least one major change. In most areas, the change is even more intense.
Ultimately, every one of the changes underway is about improving our ability to get results for the people we serve. Change is not easy, making it hard some days to keep in mind why we are undertaking these changes, so let's take a moment to do just that.
We are not making change just for change sake. Our goal is to become a more customer-focused, outcome-driven organization in order to better achieve the results we want for the people who depend on us. We are seeking to provide more preventive and up-front interventions and services to help individuals and families remain safe, healthy and independent.
Many industries are working to achieve these changes, and we’re not alone in Oregon state government in pursuing these goals.
Please view the DHS framework for change you’ve seen before (it’s the one we presented to the Legislature this past session) to remind you of the compass we are using as a guide for all of our major change efforts. It’s worth printing it out and keeping it close to your work area as a way to keep your spirits up when the changes get to feel like they’re too much!
You are the people on the front lines where this change becomes reality, so let me hear from you:
- Where do you see real progress and positive changes being made?
- Where do you see the need for us to do better?
- How do you see the changes underway having the potential to better serve individuals and families in your community?
- Where do you see us needing to do a better job of being customer- and family-focused?
In this time of change, it's even more important for us to communicate and stay in touch, so if you have questions or feedback for me and the DHS leadership team, please speak up!
Have a great week.
|August 5, 2013: Governor Kitzhaber’s Workforce Executive Order||8/5/2013 2:30 PM|
Many of the people we serve depend on us to help them prepare for and find employment. We’re often their most important partner for finding the job that gives them the foothold they need on a path to independence. Our ability to support the people we serve to create and achieve their employment goals relates directly to their independence and economic stability – and also to their health and safety.
That’s why I wanted to make sure you know that DHS job preparation and employment programs are getting a new level of support from the Governor.
Back in December 2011, Governor Kitzhaber initiated a transformation of Oregon’s workforce system to respond to a changing economy. He called upon the workforce system to expand innovation, eliminate fragmentation, and provide more resources and authority for local communities to develop workforce solutions that achieve a common set of goals.
Last month, Governor Kitzhaber took another important step as part of his significant effort to align Oregon’s workforce system to achieve the best possible results for Oregon’s job seekers and businesses. On July 25, the Governor signed an Executive Order to re-charter state and local workforce investment boards. The order was issued to recognize that we must create new roles, responsibilities, accountability and authority for the state and local workforce investment boards in order for Oregon to achieve its strategic goals for the workforce.
The Executive Order sets a process in motion to re-charter these boards to play a greater role in aligning and innovating Oregon’s workforce system. Achievement of the goals also requires the state’s workforce programs to find new ways to work together and to support the efforts of state and local workforce boards.
What does the Governor’s Executive Order mean for DHS?
DHS participates in the Oregon Workforce Investment Board (OWIB) and local workforce investment boards that will have new roles, responsibilities, accountability and authority under the Oregon at Work strategic plan.
We will continue participating at both levels to act on the Governor’s Executive Order to:
- Engage more private and public partnerships, develop a strong understand of local labor markets and implement localized workforce solutions;
- Transform workforce investment boards from direct service providers into neutral, independent brokers of services, designers of innovation and evaluators of outcomes;
- Adjust the state’s administrative infrastructure to better support the workforce investment boards by creating a mechanism for funding the boards and increasing state-level alignment and integration of workforce programs; and,
- Avoid unnecessary duplications.
Several DHS programs will be involved:
- Job Opportunity and Basic Skills (JOBS) Program: An employment and training program for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) participants.
- OFSET: A federally required, short-term employment and training program focused on job search for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants.
- Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP): A program that serves low-income people who are at least 55 years old and have poor employment prospects. The program provides training and job placement in unsubsidized jobs.
- Vocational Rehabilitation Services: A program that helps people with developmental, intellectual and physical disabilities find and retain employment.
Read Governor Kitzhaber’s Executive Order on Oregon’s Workforce System: http://www.oregon.gov/gov/docs/executive_orders/eo_13-08.pdf
Read the story from the Oregonian newspaper business section on the Governor’s Executive Order: http://www.oregonlive.com/money/index.ssf/2013/07/kitzhaber_issues_executive_ord.html
While our work in the Governor’s Workforce System Transformation may be connected to specific programs in the Department, the potential impact of that work has important and far-reaching implications – for youth transitioning to adulthood and for every working-age individual we serve. Look for more information from me and DHS program directors as we move forward in this important initiative.
|July 22, 2013: Increasing Access to OHP is Important to DHS, too||7/22/2013 8:30 AM|
I know you are all receiving our communications about the new Affordable Care Act (ACA) and how Oregon will be increasing access to the Oregon Health Plan. You’ll be continuing to get regular News for You messages from us, and we will also forward the Five-Minute Updates from the Oregon Health Authority. Increasing the number of low-income Oregonians who have health care coverage is a priority for our Governor, our Legislators (who approved the action during the last session) and for the Oregon Health Authority – but you may not realize it is also a very important element of providing services to DHS customers and their families to ensure they can be safe, healthy and independent.
In Oregon today, about 600,000 individuals rely on the Medicaid program – which is what the Oregon Health Plan is – for their health care coverage. There are many more low-income individuals and families who need health insurance but can’t get it right now. Some even meet all the requirements to get coverage, but they are on the waiting list for the “lottery” to see if they can get health care for themselves and their children. That will all change beginning in January 2014. Oregon, working under the provisions of the ACA and with the support of the Legislature and Governor, will increase access to OHP for an estimated 240,000 more people. I’ve attached a link from OHA that shows the forecast by county for where the new members will come from: http://www.oregon.gov/oha/docs/NewOHPEnrollesbyCounty.pdf
I said this increased access is good for the people we serve here at DHS, and here’s why that’s true:
• OHP helps families by keeping them healthy and getting them access to treatment and services they need to remain together, such as mental health, behavioral health or substance abuse treatment;
• OHP protects seniors by supporting their access to in-come care and nursing facilities, if needed;
• OHP protects children because about half of Medicaid recipients are kids who need to be healthy, happy and learning instead of sick at home;
• OHP funds critical services including trauma care, neonatal intensive care, burn care and others like these;
• OHP keeps working Oregonians healthy because many low-income families are working families, too, and health coverage keeps them on the job; and
• OHP reduces the financial burden on Oregon’s safety net because it helps provide sound financial footing for health providers and others.
You will continue to have an important role in this work because you’re the first people our customers see – for eligibility, for referral to other services, for questions and guidance. There will be some process changes and new tools we’ll need to learn to help us assist clients applying for medical assistance. The exact nature of the changes associated with Medicaid medical eligibility are still being worked out, but one we know about right now is that nearly all medical eligibility will be determined by OHA based on information collected by DHS and entered into our SNAP eligibility systems. You will get more information – and training - on changes and tools as it becomes available.
I want to hear from you – what are your hopes for Oregon’s expanded access to Medicaid coverage? How do you see it helping the people you serve in your local community? Share your thoughts, and I’ll use them in an upcoming message.
Hope your summer is going well, and thank you for all you do every day!
|July 15, 2013: Lets Go!||7/15/2013 7:31 AM|
|July 1, 2013: Director’s Excellence Award - K Plan Team||7/1/2013 9:30 AM|
|June 24, 2013: Thank you for 2011-13||6/24/2013 9:37 AM|
This week marks the end of the 2011-13 biennium, the two-year budget cycle that Oregon state government uses to keep track of time and money. Next Monday will be the First of July and the start of a new biennium, 2013-15. In recognition of this milestone. I want to be short and sweet today and say thank you to every single person who is part of this agency and its efforts to improve the lives of those we serve. It’s been an important two years here at DHS, and we’ve made a lot of progress against the incredible odds of short staff and heavy caseloads.
Believe me, I know that in public service there is little recognition for what you do, and it’s important to me that you know how much I appreciate you and your work. You make a difference, and your daily individual commitment is what makes this organization successful. In a short few days or weeks, we will know more about the tools we will have for the next biennium, and that should mean both added staff and funding to continue the work we’ve started. We appreciate the support of our Legislators and our Governor for our key initiatives as we move into the future.
But today, I just want to say thank you for the work you have already done. I am proud of you, and I am proud to be the DHS Director at this important stage in our agency’s history.
Have a great Monday, and I promise to keep our lines of communication open in 2013-15, just as I have in the past.
|June 10, 2013: Budget Work Sessions||6/11/2013 8:31 AM|
Things are starting to come together for our budget for the next two year period, and I continue to be cautiously optimistic that the Legislature and the Governor will approve many of the investments we need to move forward on our strategic initiatives to improve our services for Oregon children, youth, adults, seniors and families. The May Revenue Forecast showed that we will have a little more money to spend on state services thanks to the effects of a slow, steady economic recovery in Oregon. That’s good news, and it means our Legislators have the information they need to complete their work.
As a result, the Joint Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Services (the group charged with developing our budget) is holding work sessions on the DHS budget. Last week, they worked through Child Welfare, Vocational Rehabilitation, Developmental Disabilities and Aging and People with Disabilities. This week they are planning to work through Central and Shared Services and Self Sufficiency. I’ve included some links to their working documents (see below -- ours are titled SB 5529).
My message to you continues to be that there are a great many issues to address, and legislative sessions always produce lots of facts and fiction, especially as the work toward final budgets heats up. Do your best to keep calm and carry on. Remember that nothing is final until it is final -- and that means approved by both the House and Senate and signed by the Governor.
I’m looking forward to a final budget that helps us continue - and maybe even enhances - the important work you and our partners do every day in service to Oregonians.
FYI -- Reference Documents from Legislative Fiscal Office (LFO)
· June 12 work session (Self Sufficiency): materials not yet posted
|June 3, 2013: Seeing some of our work through the eyes of a 10-year-old||6/3/2013 3:16 PM|
So much of what we do is about helping families provide stable, safe and healthy environments so their children can thrive. It’s rewarding when the work gets noticed – especially when it’s appreciated by a child. Ten-year-old Cheryl from Bend got back in touch with us recently to tell us how the food assistance her family gets through DHS is helping her “grow, get healthier and feel better.”
If you recall, last year Cheryl sent us a thank you note for the SNAP benefits her family receives and told us how having nutritious meals helped her do well in school. Back then, when she was in third grade, Cheryl loved oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar for breakfast before school.
Cheryl just sent us an update and told us that this year, as a fourth-grader, she is growing her own garden and often “picks her own breakfast” straight from the fruit and vegetables growing on her own front porch. Her family used their SNAP benefits to buy seeds for their garden and that’s her favorite part of the program now.
“I am doing great. I am getting more healthier each day,” Cheryl said.
Cheryl tells us her family still needs SNAP benefits but she’s excelling in school, and is nurturing her green thumb and culinary knowledge daily. She’s learning to catch and smoke fish. She’s growing peppermint and using it to make tea. And, she’s looking forward to getting a veggie box directly from a farmer this summer – thanks to her family’s SNAP benefits.
Cheryl is one of 807,768 people in Oregon getting help buying food through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). That figures out to be one in five Oregonians who need our help to put food on their tables. Our spring caseload forecasts came out recently and show that while our SNAP caseload has leveled off and is starting a gradual decline, it’s going to be a long time before we see major change.
That means we have to stay focused on our efforts to help families like Cheryl’s get into higher paying, living wage jobs – and it also means many more opportunities are ahead to encourage people to stretch their SNAP benefits in creative, healthy ways like Cheryl’s family is doing. Using SNAP benefits to buy seeds to grow food, spending benefits at farmer’s markets, and turning meal planning and preparation into learning moments with children are positive things all SNAP recipients can do to improve their health. We’re fortunate to have partners who offer nutrition education in every county across the state and the involvement of Oregon State University, whose Food Hero website offers fantastic nutrition tips and recipes.
As you work in service to Oregonians who need help making ends meet, please let Cheryl inspire you to point people toward resources like Food Hero for eating healthy on a tight food budget. And, keep Cheryl in mind when work days are long. The efforts we invest today in families and individuals have lasting effects. You often play a role in helping a child or individual reach their full potential and that makes Oregon a better place now and in the future.
Read Cheryl’s 2013 Thank You Note
Read Cheryl’s 2012 Thank You Note
|May 20, 2013: Are you ready?||5/20/2013 8:54 AM|
|May 13, 2013: Older Americans Month||5/13/2013 9:40 AM|
|May 6, 2013: Public Service Recognition Week||5/7/2013 7:43 AM|Hello DHS,
This week is Public Service Recognition Week and honors the millions of employees of the federal, state and local governments of the United States. This week provides an opportunity to recognize the important contributions of public employees and honor the diverse men and women who meet the needs of the United States through work at all levels of government.
The United States is a great and prosperous country, and public employees – at all levels-- contribute to that greatness and prosperity because of the knowledge and skills of the highly trained individuals who work in public service. Millions of individuals work in government service in every city, county, and state across America and in hundreds of cities abroad, and I believe these governments are responsive, innovative, and effective because of the outstanding work of public employees like each of you.
Here in Oregon, this week gives me an excellent opportunity to personally express my appreciation to each and every DHS employee across the state of Oregon -- from our excellent support staff, to our hardworking front line staff working with clients and providing critical business supports, to our innovative supervisors and managers at every level.
Every day of the year you work to provide vital services to Oregonians who depend on DHS to help keep them safe, healthy and independent. Thank you for your work. You continue to put the needs of our clients and your community at the top of your daily “to do” list.
I know in public service there is so little recognition for what you do, and it’s important to me that you know how appreciative I am of your work. Individual commitment to a group effort is really what makes this organization work, and so I thank you for your commitment to our work to assist people in becoming healthy, safe and independent.
Thanks for all you do and know that it’s not unnoticed. I am proud of you and the work you do, and I am thankful to be working with all of you.
Speaking of thank you -- I know many offices and work units have their own unique ways of doing “shout outs” to recognize and thank employees. What do you do in your local unit when you want to thank someone – bulletin board, staff e-mail, etc.? Let me know, and I’ll share the good ideas in an upcoming message.
Have a great week!
|April 29, 2013: Customer Service||4/29/2013 7:37 AM|
|April 22, 2013: National Volunteer Week||4/23/2013 9:38 AM|
This is National Volunteer Week, honoring the 63 million people across the United States who dedicate themselves to taking action and solving problems in their communities. Here in Oregon, we celebrate National Volunteer Week to recognize the ordinary people who accomplish extraordinary things through their service and demonstrate their collective power to make positive transformations.
The Department of Human Services Volunteer Program supports and coordinates this important part of our agency, offering a range of opportunities for volunteers to help serve DHS clients and staff. Since 2008, a total of 3,667 volunteers provided an astonishing 1.5 million hours of service for DHS clients. Our volunteers work in such areas as transporting clients, locating community resources, and providing support for clients – everything from child care for parents of children attending appointments, to tutoring for foster children, to providing an extra helping hand for our elderly consumers.
In addition to these volunteers, there are many more auxiliary volunteers who work with DHS through community partnerships. They do not work in direct contact with DHS clients, but work for the benefit of DHS clients doing things like gathering toys for toy drives, putting together back to school back packs, making blankets and quilts for children coming into foster care, assembling Thanksgiving food boxes and much more. They are a wonderful asset to our clients: Since 2008 a total of nearly 16,000 auxiliary volunteers provided another 136,000 hours of service.
On top of all that, there are all the volunteers who serve on our advisory groups, work groups, boards and other local teams who provide us with guidance, advice and expertise in service of our clients and our staff.
Finally, there are our local DHS volunteer coordinators who provide countless hours of service to our local offices and communities.
Amazing. Thank you – each and every one. Your service makes a difference in people’s lives and makes Oregon a better place to live and work. You are an inspiration to all of us.
Please take some time to thank a volunteer, either at work or in the community, and let them know that they make a big difference in our lives. And let me also thank each of you at DHS who volunteer in your communities across the state. I am always amazed at the commitment you have to serving your communities – not just in your work lives, but in your personal lives as well.
Have a great week!
|April 15, 2013: Halfway thru Session||4/15/2013 9:55 AM|
|April 8, 2013 - Employment is a big part of who we are||4/8/2013 11:13 AM|
Here’s the text of the story I was talking about:
Career training for Oregon teenagers is a smart anti-poverty move: Agenda 2013
By The Oregonian Editorial Board (Friday, April 4, 2013)
If Oregon spends more money on career training for young people, that's less money for social services. Erinn Kelley-Siel, the director of the state department of human services, understands that budget tradeoff -- but supports more career training anyway.
"The people we serve," she says, "would much rather be helping themselves."
This week, the goal of making Oregon's workforce more educated and employable gained fresh urgency. New federal employment data show Oregon with the nation's fourth worst rate of "underemployment," which includes people stuck in part-time jobs who want full-time work. This follows last week's news that Oregonians continue to earn 10 percent below the national average, despite recent income gains. The trendlines are clear: If Oregon wants to become a more prosperous state, it needs more employable citizens. That means fewer high school dropouts who get stuck delivering pizzas and stocking shelves -- and a lot more teenagers who use high school as a springboard to a skilled career in fields such as health care, manufacturing and construction.
The jobs are out there, industry leaders say. Better yet, most of them pay a living wage, enough to make a family self-sufficient and limit their need for social services.
"It's important that we're there for people when they need us," says Kelley-Siel, the human services director, referring to state assistance for families in financial crisis. But the more skills people have, the more quickly they can get back on their feet after a setback, she added. "Ideally, the help can be as temporary as possible."
This philosophy explains Kelley-Siel's support for Gov. John Kitzhaber's proposal to spend at least $14 million on improving the career readiness of teenagers, especially in the STEM areas of science, technology, engineering and math. Other state leaders, including labor commissioner Brad Avakian, want the state to spend at least $20 million next biennium restoring career and technical education (CTE) in high schools, typically through close partnerships with nearby employers and community colleges. This has become a politically trendy idea, to be sure, but it's also a sound investment. Graduation rates for students in CTE programs are closer to 90 percent -- quite enticing in a state with the nation's fourth worst on-time graduation rate, at 68 percent. High-school graduates go on to make about $500,000 more in lifetime earnings than their dropout peers, according to a new national report on Oregon's skills gap.
These students -- especially those who learn a skilled trade or earn a four-year degree -- are far better equipped to afford homes, support families and find steady work. Poverty has become unsustainably expensive in Oregon. The state spends a staggering percentage of its tax revenue on the symptoms of poverty, including prison beds, social services and urgent health care. Stagnant incomes and chronic poverty, along with rising pension costs, have compromised the state's ability to invest in schools and universities.
This negative spiral won't reverse itself. It will require Oregon to turn a whole lot of would-be dropouts and rudderless high-school graduates into young adults who can see a clear path toward good middle-class jobs. It will require Oregon to invest more heavily in the kind of education and job training that, in Kelley-Siel's words, helps more people help themselves.
|April 1, 2013 - Intellectual/Developmental Disability Awareness||4/1/2013 2:54 PM|
I was excited and honored to participate last Friday with the Oregon Council on Developmental Disabilities and the Arc Oregon at their annual Intellectual and Developmental Disability Awareness celebration. The theme of the event was high expectations, and one of the highlights of the event was the appearance a young man who is a model of high expectations, Cameron Lasley, also known in the music world as Laz D. His music illustrates his challenges and successes living with Down Syndrome. We listened to some of his music and learned more about how his friends and family supported him to excel in pursuit of his dreams. He talked about how they simply said “Go For it.” It was a very inspiring program – and you can hear some of Laz D’s music at his website: http://laz-d.com/
We also witnessed the unveiling of the 2013 awareness poster and the announcement of the champion award winners, Angela Martinez and Molly Holsapple. Champion awards are given to individuals for passion and dedication in support of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. Both Angela and Molly were recognized for positively impacting the lives of many Oregonians.
In my message to the audience, I expressed how amazing things can happen when people know the bar is raised high for them. Many times I hear from our clients that they turned their lives around when one person believed in them. What a great privilege all of us have daily in this work to be that person… the one who tells someone “go for it---you can do it.”
Finally, it’s really important to recognize all of you who work with our DD program. Your efforts make an important daily impact on the people we serve. Thank you.
Have a great week.