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DHS 2014 Director's Messages

  
7/21/2014
“Let the shameful walls of exclusion finally come tumbling down.” 
-- George H.W. Bush, signing of Americans with Disabilities Act

July 26 is the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a law that is important to our clients, their families and to all of us here at DHS. The statement above mirrors my own feelings about the walls and barriers – physical and social – that still face too many Americans with disabilities. Every individual should be free from prejudices, attitudes, physical barriers and even well-intended policies and practices that prevent the full realization of their human potential.

For our own employees here at DHS, our commitment is to ensure compliance with Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against employees and applicants with disabilities who can perform the essential functions of the jobs they hold or seek -- with or without reasonable accommodation. For more information on this important protection for employees, please see the information for the Office of Equity and Multicultural Services​.

In addition, every program at DHS works with individuals who experience disability. Our Core Values provide us with the basis for how we seek to design programs and provide services across every level of our organization. As we mark this important anniversary, I encourage everyone to reaffirm their dedication to our Core Values and consider how you can strengthen your own work to provide respectful, professional, and equitable service to every Oregonian that comes in contact with our organization.

The Americans with Disabilities Act is another one of those powerful reminders that America is at its greatest when we work together to realize and support the full participation and contribution of all of our citizens.

Have a great week.

~Erinn
  
7/17/2014

Make plans to attend one of these DHS town hall meetings.

You are invited to provide input and feedback to the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) on our priorities and strategic direction for 2015-17 and beyond in the following areas: Child Welfare, Aging and People with Disabilities, Intellectual/Developmental Disability Services, Self Sufficiency Programs (SNAP, TANF, ERDC), Vocational Rehabilitation, DHS agency operations, and other human services issues. 

Our community outreach this summer has two goals: 

  • first, to report on progress toward our long-term goals and strategic efforts as an organization; and
  • second, get your thoughts and ideas as we plan for the next two years of work.

Your input and participation is extremely valuable to us.

Please make plans to attend a meeting in your local area -- or to log on for a statewide web-based meeting (if you are unable to attend in person). We need your help and ideas to ensure the safety, health and independence of all Oregonians!

Wednesday, July 30
Portland - Portland Community College (Cascade Campus, Moriarty Arts & Humanities Building)
1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
RSVP to: DHS.DirectorsOffice@dhsoha.state.or.us subject line Portland

Friday, August 1
Bend - Central Oregon Community College (Hitchcock Auditorium)
1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
RSVP to: DHS.DirectorsOffice@dhsoha.state.or.us subject line Bend

Monday, August 4
Eugene - Lane Community College (Center for Meeting & Learning)
1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
RSVP to: DHS.DirectorsOffice@dhsoha.state.or.us subject line Eugene

Tuesday, August 5
Medford - Rogue Community College (RCC/SOU Higher Education Center)
10:00 am - 12:00 noon
RSVP to: DHS.DirectorsOffice@dhsoha.state.or.us subject line Medford

Thursday, August 7 (special online meeting for those unable to attend in person)
Statewide -- Web-based interactive meeting, sign-up info & other details to come later.
1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
RSVP to: DHS.DirectorsOffice@dhsoha.state.or.us subject line Web

Join DHS Director Erinn Kelley-Siel and members of the DHS Executive Team for an informative presentation and lively discussion about where the agency is today and where we are going in the next two years and beyond. Additional information will be coming soon - please forward this message to others who may be interested.

Thank you!

Questions?
Please contact DHS.DirectorsOffice@dhsoha.state.or.us

​​
  
7/7/2014

I hope everyone enjoyed the long holiday weekend! As we celebrated our national independence, I also thought about how the idea of “independence” is central to who we are. Even if you’re somebody who wants or needs assistance, it’s a pretty all-American value to want that assistance in a way that preserves your dignity and our self-worth. As an organization, our mission, vision, goals and “Know Your Why” statements deal directly with the aim of helping people to live as independently as possible – so this message is to recognize some of our recent accomplishments in doing just that!

Last month, AARP recognized our Aging and People with Disabilities program for national excellence in providing long-term services and supports to seniors and people with disabilities. APD Director Mike McCormick was invited to speak at the news event in Washington, D.C. to talk about Oregon’s history of community care. You can watch a few of Mike’s remarks at that event on YouTube (or course!) In addition, there is all the work moving forward on SB 21 and the continued expansion of ADRC with the goal of keeping more people at home or in their communities.

The Office of Developmental Disability Services completed the functional needs assessments for nearly 2,000 individuals – and amazing accomplishment – to ensure they get the right services at the right level to keep them living as independently as possible. Completing the assessments by July 1 was a federal requirement, and ODDS staff and partners pitched in to get the backlog of overdue reviews done accurately and on time. Huge congratulations to everyone on this.

Our employment efforts have been continuing to gather momentum, thanks in part to the improving economy and increased hiring, but also because of the ongoing focus of DHS staff in SNAP, TANF, OVRS, ERDC and Employment First to help individuals get and maintain employment. There are so many benefits to a job – and a sense of independence is a very important aspect of working. Employment also stabilizes those families who have been through the worst of the recession to keep them from falling further behind or becoming even more at risk. Everyone is doing hard work and getting consistently good results.

Finally, our exceptional work in Child Welfare to develop and implement the array of services in the Strengthening, Preserving and Reunifying Families initiative is also setting the foundation for family stability and independence. These important support help parents deal with the serious issues that create unsafe conditions for their children – and as Differential Response continues to roll out across the state will help keep more children safely at home and out of foster care. The CW program is a good example of planning, implementation and monitoring that we should all follow.

Looking at all the work above, I think you’d have to agree that independence means something very real to the employees of DHS. It’s not an abstract idea – it’s our mission in action. I appreciate all that you’re doing to help people in your community live as independently as possible.

Have a great week!

~Erinn

What did I miss? Is there something going on right now that you want to make sure we also recognize? Let me know.

​​​
  
6/30/2014
Message from DHS Director Erinn Kelley-Siel and Equity and Multicultural Services Director Lydia Muñiz

 
Hello DHS,
 
Wednesday, July 2, is the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Act, along with the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act in 1968, helped establish the foundation for equality among all Americans. Together, these three laws banned discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, or national origin. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which added protection for people with disabilities, was influenced by the Civil Rights Act, Of course, the Act also has influenced the national movement to end discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, too.
 
You can see why the law is usually called the “landmark” Civil Rights Act of 1964.
 
But for all its promise and influence on history, the goal of ending discrimination, unequal treatment and inequity still has not been achieved. There have been improvements – sometimes uneven and sometimes short-lived -- but there is still so much that needs to be done to achieve the dream of the 1964 law. The one thing that remains true is the eternally optimistic spirit of believing that we can each do our part to continue working toward creating an community of equity, respect and acceptance for each other.
 
Back in his 2013 State of the State address, Governor Kitzhaber talked about his vision of prosperity that would create opportunity for individuals representing every community in Oregon. He talked about giving every Oregonian a shot at the American Dream, and our individual and collective responsibility to be certain that that Oregon's prosperity reaches all Oregonians. The line from his speech that really struck a chord was this: Oregon will not be a great place for any of us to live until it is a great place for all of us to live.
 
For us here at DHS, the legacy is best shown in our Core Values of Respect and Service Equity – and our job, fifty years after the “landmark” words of the Civil Rights Act, is to make our Core Values a reality through our actions, our work and our day-to-day customer service with our clients and each other.
 
Have a great week, and we encourage you to watch a brief excerpt from President Johnson’s speech before he signed the law​. His words are as true today as they were in 1964.
 
~Erinn and Lydia
 
  
6/23/2014

​Two weeks ago, I shared a message with you about something I’ve been calling “Know Your Why” as a way for us to think more deeply and thoughtfully about our work here at DHS. I shared the “Know Your Why” statements that my Exec Team came up with, and I asked you all to read them. I also asked you to share your thoughts with me about your own “Know Your Why” statements. Thanks for the responses, and here are just a few examples:

Michael Mallorie said, “Wow, what a great opening to help draw folks into thinking about their WHY. I have watched the Simon Sinek presentation you referred to, and I agree it is very empowering. Maybe a good follow up would be sending out a link to the Sinek and encourage folks to watch the whole thing.” See the link at the bottom of this message.

Jenny Boyle said, “This is a powerful message. Thank you for sharing. I usually skim and delete, (sorry!), but this one really caught me. I’m wondering how case managers could use the phrase, “I believe..” with TANF participants, instead of “you are required…”

Julie LaChappelle said, “I wanted to add to the “Update IT Systems” a part about using data to inform how we service with evidence based practices rather than anecdotal information.  If we are truly moving from an intuitive based system (at least in child welfare) to an information based system, then normalizing the use of data in every aspect of the work is important.”

Barbara Mahnu said, “This message really resonates because, as a team charged with a major IT project for an enterprise-wide system for case management, the WHYs were a major topic quite recently. To begin one work session, we started with Simon Sinek’s “Know Your Why” TEDTalk (one of my favorites).”

Jessica Soltesz sent me a PowerPoint that she said was her WHY for Long-Term Care 3.0. I’ve attached that one to this message, so you can see it, too.

Chuck Dunn said, “With so much information flowing through the organization- repeating critical themes is helpful to me. I have been struck recently by the errors uncovered in the GM investigation - one of the cultural issues GM employees revealed was what they called the “GM Nod”- nodding in agreement with no intention of following through- all levels.”

Clayton Rees said,” Why ask outsiders for inside information? We are used to asking “insiders”, i.e. those we work with, to help us with questions about resources to better serve our clients. Too often we don’t recognize “outsiders”, i.e. those who serve our clients in some other capacity, as a resource to answer our question(s) or provide needed information to help us better serve our clients. With the implementation of Community Care Organizations, CCO’s, does that provide yet an additional, collective, resource that would allow both DHS and the CCO’s to better serve mutual clients, i.e. collaborate?  Are there other “outsiders” who we may not recognize as potential resources that could help us achieve better outcomes? Just a thought.”

Shaunia Scales said, ”I have to say I love this "Know your why" concept. I strongly feel that we don't work in social services for the pay or benefits, we work here for the people, we work here to make a difference, or because at some point in our lives we have needed help, and now want to be able to pay it forward. I work on the Modernization team, so the statements about Modernizing Service Delivery Transformation and Updating IT Systems is my world. I agree with what the statements said but there is a piece that I feel strongly about that I am not seeing there. That is -- we live in a world with amazing technology that can do some remarkable and astounding things, but what it can't do is be human. We also live in a world where money is tight, resources are highly sought after, and people expect more- more efficiency, more transparency, more respect, and more empathy. The only way we can meet this need is by leveraging technology to do what is does best, so we can free up our human potential do to what it does best.”

Lani Norona-Raines said, “Noting the complexity of the issues addressed, condensing these "Know Your Why" answers into single-sentence, concise statements presents a daunting challenge. However, single-sentence statements might be more thought provoking and more effective as motivational tools. Think of advertising slogans and our own one-word Core Values. When people ask me why I work for the DHS/State of Oregon, this is my answer: I work for the Department of Human Services because I believe in helping others, and I believe in the fundamental principal of government of the people, for the people, by the people."

Wise words from these employees, and I received several other comments, too. Thank you to everyone who took the time to respond, and if you haven’t sent me your thoughts yet, please do.   Have a great week and Know Your Why!
 
~Erinn
 
As Michael suggested, here’s the link to the full TED Talk by Simon Sinek, and I encourage you to find time to watch “the whole thing.” It’s pretty inspiring! It’s called “Start with Why” and runs about 18 minutes.

  
6/13/2014
Hello DHS,

Governor Kitzhaber said in a statement this week, “My heart is heavy after learning of this morning’s tragic events at Reynolds High School. Today Oregon hurts as we try to make sense of a senseless act of violence.”

Like all of you, my heart has been aching -- for this family and for every individual and family that has been impacted by this tragedy and other school shootings across the nation.

At the vigil this week, the Governor was interviewed by a local TV crew, and he said something that really hit home for me. He said we need to move beyond the sensationalism of this event – the constant news coverage and social media chatter – to ask the deeper questions of why these things happen and what we can do to prevent them from happening again.

We need to move beyond the sensationalism to get to the deeper issues. Think about that.

What I think about is how our work here at DHS deals with those deeper issues, fundamental issues of health, safety and independence for the people we serve. Our clients and customers come to us for assistance, advice, resources and all types of other supports to help them address the serious issues they face each day – physical, emotional, large and small, but they are all serious. Some are sensational issues, and some are day-to-day challenges.

This week and in the coming weeks and months, we are working with Emilio’s family in Portland. Our staff in Multnomah County has been extraordinary in their caring and expertise. I’ve expressed my appreciation to them, and I wanted to share that appreciation with you all, too.

I don’t believe we’ll ever really make sense of this – or any -- senseless act of violence.

What I am confident we can do is to continue to serve our clients and customers in the best ways we know how, in line with our Core Values and each of our personal commitments to serve. I am proud to work with you in service to Oregon’s children, youth, adults and families.

Make time to hug the ones closest to you.

~Erinn

  
6/10/2014
DHS is an agency that exists for a high purpose -- working to achieve safety, health and independence for those we serve. And most of us who come to work here also have a personal "why" behind our motivation in the work -- a child with a disability, an older person's dignity in their final years, an individual experiencing homelessness, a young person's opportunity to be the first in their family to graduate, and the list goes on.

As we work on some pretty significant and transformative agendas across programs in DHS, I’ve been asking people to get back in touch with both your personal and the collective "WHY." I have been calling this effort “Know Your Why,” and I think it’s a good way for all of us to think more deeply and thoughtfully about our efforts to inspire ourselves and our systems to continuously improve our work and our services.
 
Last month, I challenged my Executive Team to come up with “Know Your Why” statements about our major initiatives, and it wasn’t always an easy ask. We found that while we are used to thinking at a high level about the "why", we are not as used to thinking about the "why" within the context of change. I encourage you to take a look at the results​.
 
Do their "Know Your Why" statements match with your thinking? Should those statements be revised, rewritten or adjusted to better inspire and motivate? What’s your "Know Your Why" statement about your own job? Let me know what you think – and why you think so -- and I'll share them in a future message.
 
Have a great week.
 
~Erinn
 
I wanted to share a little bit of a presentation I saw on YouTube of a TED Talk by Simon Sinek. He gives a fantastic example of knowing your why. Here’s a transcript of one section:
 
Simon Sinek: In the summer of 1963, 250,000 people showed up on the Mall of Washington, DC. to hear Dr. King speak. They sent out no invitations and there was no website to check the date. How do you do that? Well, Dr. King wasn’t the only man in America who was a great orator. He wasn’t the only man in America who suffered in pre-civil rights America. In fact some of his ideas were bad but he had a gift. He didn’t go around telling people what needed to change in America. He went around and told people what he believed. “I believe, I believe, I believe,” he told people. And people who believed what he believed took his cause and made it their own and they told people. And some of those people created structures to get the word out to even more people. And lo and behold, 250,000 people showed up on the right day, at the right time to hear him speak. How many of them showed up for him? Zero. They showed up for themselves. It’s what they believed about America that got them to travel in a bus for eight hours to stand in the sun in Washington in the middle of August. It’s what they believed. And it wasn’t about black versus white. Twenty five percent of the audience was white.
 
Dr. King believed that there were two types of laws in this world: those that are made by a higher authority and those that are made by man and not until all the laws that are made by man are consistent with the laws that are made by a higher authority will we live in a just world. It just so happens that the Civil Rights Movement was the perfect thing to help him bring his cause to life. 
 
We follow him not for him, but for ourselves. And by the way, he gave the I Have a Dream speech not the I Have a Plan speech. Because there are leaders and then there are those who lead. Leaders hold a position of power or authority but those who lead inspire us, whether they are individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead not because we have to but because we want to. We follow those who lead, not for them but for ourselves. And it’s those who start with “why?” that have the ability to inspire those around them or find others who inspire them. 

  
5/23/2014
“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty." -- John F. Kennedy

 

Hello DHS,

Monday, May 26, is Memorial Day -- one of our most respected and solemn holidays.

Memorial Day, or Decoration Day as it was originally called, was first observed on May 30, 1868 as a day to lay flowers on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The holiday’s name was later changed to Memorial Day. In 1971, it became a federal holiday to be observed on the last Monday in May.

As I do each year, I encourage everyone to take time to remember and honor the brave men and women who gave so much to defend the values and freedom that we all cherish. It is also a day to pay tribute to the dedication and sacrifice of their families and loved ones, and it is a day to pray for the safe return of those still serving far away from home.

Finally, I would like to thank all those DHS staff who have served our country and to those with family members serving today.

Many Oregon communities have local Memorial Day celebrations planned, and I hope you’ll take the opportunity to have a great holiday weekend and support these local events, too.

~ Erinn

 

Two names will be added to the Afghan-Iraqi Freedom Memorial on the grounds of the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs, 700 Summer Street in Salem, Monday afternoon at 3 p.m. The names of Army Spc. John Pelham of Beaverton, killed in Afghanistan on Feb. 12 last year, and Pfc. Cody Patterson of Philomath, also killed in Afghanistan last year on Oct. 6, will be added to the memorial. Senator Jeff Merkley will speak at the event.

Also see other 2014 Memorial Day Events.  

 

  
5/19/2014

Hello DHS,

It was about three months ago that I shared our internal and external customer service results with you all, and it’s time for an update. As part of our Quarterly Business Review (QBR) which is the place where as a leadership team in this agency we track outcomes and what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, we’ve continued to include the external and internal set of customer surveys, as well as our own DHS employee engagement survey.

A big focus we all have is looking at what we do and how we get results for people – an important part that if often overlooked is HOW we work with people to get things done. That’s really what I mean by customer service. It's the Golden Rule – treating other people how we want to be treated -- and one of the most important things we can do is to make people feel they’ve been treated with respect. Today, I have good news for everyone. Our customer service and employee engagement survey results are up over last quarter in all areas.

At our QBR last week, here’s what was reported:

  • 85% of DHS customers rated our service as good or excellent, an increase from last quarter. These are the people who are in need of our assistance and come into our branch offices, call us on the phone and send us e-mails. They said their satisfaction with our service was overwhelmingly good or excellent. In addition, 84% said that they were felt they’d been treated with dignity and respect, that they felt good about their experience with us.
  • In terms of our internal survey, that’s the one that measures how well we are serving each other, our results showed that 79% of folks rated their service as good or excellent. That’s an increase, too. That also means that we recognize that we have customers for our services both inside the agency, as well as outside. Central Office staff are doing a pretty good job helping each other and supporting our field offices, and our field offices are doing a pretty good job in serving each other and Central Office.
  • Finally, a total of 77% of DHS staff answered that they felt a medium-high to high level of engagement as employees here at DHS. That is also up from last quarter! Employee engagement is important because it is a reflection that we really are living our Core Values and putting those values into action.

So WHAT we do is as important as HOW we do it, and our most recent survey results really show that’s embedded in our actions across the agency. That’s good news and good work! So great job everyone for outstanding customer service and engagement.

In an upcoming message, I want to talk with you all about something I’ve been calling “Know Your Why,” and that’s a funny term for a serious subject – keeping our focus on why we do the work we do. More on that at a later time.

Thanks for all you do – on my survey, I rate you all as Excellent and Engaged!

Take care.

~Erinn​​​

  
5/12/2014

Last week, the Oregonian newspaper published an editorial about DHS and the recent audit by the Secretary of State’s Office. (Putting the focus back on jobs at Department of Human Services, May 5). I wanted to share with you all my response to that op-ed, since I think it’s important to set the record straight. Here’s what was published on the Oregonlive website:

The Department of Human Services Excelled During the Recession

Your recent editorial makes the point that the Oregon Department of Human Services should turn the focus back to helping Oregonians on government assistance find jobs. We agree,and we are already making progress. For the first time since 2008, we are placing about 1,000 job seekers per month into employment on a regular basis.That’s a change from the dark days of the recession.

Oregonians should expect a lot from their Human Services agency, and during the nation's worst recession on record, we delivered. With reduced program and service levels, we worked on the front line of the economic crisis, serving more than one million Oregonians each year -- helping them feed their families, get access to health care, pay their bills and keep their children out of foster care.

With demand for services increasing by 80% and not enough staff available to keep up with the increased demand, we created more streamlined, efficient business practices that delivered life-saving benefits to people even faster, going from a nine-day turnaround time to same day service for thousands of Oregonians coming in our doors each month.

With more families in distress than ever before, DHS (working with other partners in the community) focused on keeping children safe and keeping families together. But our work didn't just save lives and preserve families, it provided more than $90 million per month in federal revenue throughout our state -- helping to keep more private businesses, like grocery stores, health and child care providers, in operation during tough economic times.

Oregon DHS did what it was created to do during the great recession - we responded and met more people's needs than ever before. While we may not have been able to do everything we wanted to do during those four years of economic crisis, our accomplishments - and those of our partners in this tough work - are something Oregonians should be proud of.

The Oregonian is right about one thing: With the economy turning around, the time is now to dedicate all our energy on helping Oregonians get back to work. And as we do that, we shouldn't settle for just any work - but work that helps families support themselves so that they no longer need government assistance.

Knowing what I know about the people across this state who have dedicated their lives to the most vulnerable among us, I have no doubt that with this opportunity of economic recovery, we will do what we always do: We will rise to the occasion in service to Oregon children and their families.

~Erinn

​​​
  
5/5/2014
Hello DHS,
 
It is Public Service Recognition Week in honor of the millions of employees of the federal, state and local governments of the United States. I especially want to recognize the important contributions of Oregon public employees and honor the diverse men and women who meet the needs of our state through their work at all levels of government. Oregon is a great state, and public employees contribute to that greatness because of the knowledge, skills and experience of the individuals who work in public service.
 
This week gives me an opportunity to personally express my appreciation to every DHS employee. I know that in public service there is so little recognition for what you do, and it’s important to me that you know how much I appreciate you and your work. Your work makes a difference, and your daily, individual commitment is what makes this organization successful. 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.
 
You continue to put the needs of our clients, families and communities at the top of your daily “to do” list. Thank you.
 
In addition, I want to encourage you to consider how you will recognize the good work of your co-workers and team members this week and beyond. Simple gestures can be powerful, whether it’s a friendly email acknowledging great work, organizing an office get-together, or even an in-person thank you. To help you in your efforts, DAS has created a “shout out tool kit.” I know many offices already have a version of this idea, but for those who don’t, please view a series of printouts you can use to build a space that encourages co-workers to share thanks and appreciation.
 
Thank you and have a great recognition week!
 
~Erinn
  
4/28/2014
Hello DHS,
 
Last week I had the chance to speak to DHS staff from across the state at Leadership Diversity Forum, sponsored by our Office of Equity and Multicultural Services. It was an excellent opportunity to hear report-outs on how we’re doing with diversity, equality and equity efforts in our offices. It’s important work, and that importance is reflected in the fact that Service Equity is one of our Core Values. Over the past three years, I’ve talked a lot about Service Equity – what it is, what it means to DHS and to the people and families we serve, and how we are working to ensure it’s in place. Today I want to take just a minute to talk about WHY Service Equity is such an important goal.
 
I know, I know. Many of you are already thinking, “Erinn, it’s the right thing to do.” I agree with you. I also believe that there is a business case for Service Equity that we all need to be able to understand and articulate.
 
Last week at the Forum I talked about these three compelling business reasons in support of Service Equity: Effectiveness, Efficiency, and Customer Satisfaction:
 
  • To be effective in changing and improving the lives of the people we serve, the services we offer – and the services we purchase on behalf of our clients – need to be responsive to individual customer needs.
  • To deliver services efficiently, we need to be intentional about removing barriers to service and building relationships of trust and confidence with every person we serve.
  • To provide excellent customer service, we need to ensure that every individual we serve feels respected and valued in our interactions with them.
 
Please PAUSE for a moment and consider how customizing your service to meet the needs of those you serve results in better, more efficient results and more satisfied DHS customers. We’ve said that Service Equity is built on our existing Core Value of Respect, but we can add Stewardship to the list, too. There is a business case, in addition to the moral one, for doing the right thing. When I look across the agency, I see many employees who understand both reasons for doing the right thing – and who act to make Service Equity a reality in their local office and their local community.
 
Thank you for all you do to deliver results for every Oregonian we serve!
 
~Erinn
  
4/21/2014
  
4/14/2014
Hello DHS,
 
This month is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and for many years Oregon and other states relied on bringing children into foster care as the best answer to keep them safe when they had been victims of abuse and neglect at the hands of their parents or other adults in the home. Today, I want to share a guest op-ed Lois Day is submitting to newspapers across the state for Child Abuse Prevention Month and to highlight the new work Oregon is doing to ensure children are safe and families are strong and supported. Thank you and have a great week.
~Erinn
 
- - - -
Child Abuse Prevention Month: Support Services Protect Children & Help Build Strong Families Message from Lois Ann D ay, Child Welfare Director, Oregon Department of Human Services April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.  It is always an important recognition for the state Child Welfare system. Changes in our system are enhancing the options available for interacting with families, and I am energized to talk about a different message.
 
Oregonians are often surprised to learn that neglect of children, failure of parents to meet children’s basic needs, is the most prevalent reason families come to the attention of child welfare. In Oregon, neglect is statutorily defined as abuse and it is the largest category of founded allegations of abuse.
 
Specifically, neglect is defined as a failure of a child’s caretaker to adequately protect a child from harm. It is the inability of parents to meet their children’s basic needs. Neglect can include an ongoing pattern of serious neglect by a parent or caregiver, and the pattern can often be corrected only to repeat over the same or new concerns. When it reoccurs, it is most often a result of parents being unable to access services that would help them out of the situation that is challenging their efforts to parent. More than 60% of all incidents of child abuse in Oregon are because of neglect or threat of harm.
 
Neglect is most often accompanied by several risk factors: extreme poverty, domestic violence, substance abuse and mental illness of parent/child. Neglect is harmful for children and families, it causes trauma that has lasting impact on children that is increasingly difficult to mitigate.  And that accumulated trauma stresses the scarce resources of the state.
 
We must ask ourselves: isn’t there a better way to engage families struggling with these issues?  Can we intervene with families earlier?  Can we actually engage with families in a way that empowers them to identify their needs and take steps to ensure their children’s safety and continue to parent them while addressing the issues that brought them to the attention of the child welfare system? Can we implement a child welfare system that supports parents to make decisions that keep their children at home rather than placement in foster care?
 
We can and we are.  Oregon is in the process of implementing a Differential Response model that can transform child welfare's engagement with families and in many cases (with the right support services), keep children safely at home. During the 2013 session, the Oregon Legislature and Governor Kitzhaber took up the challenge, too. The final budget provided an increase of $92.7 million in total funds in Child Welfare programs to further earlier assistance for families.
 
Part of the investment was $23.7 million in total funds for statewide implementation of Strengthening, Preserving and Reunifying Families programs. These programs, created by the legislature in 2011, are statutorily designed to provide a broad array of services to support families and keep children safely at home. Concrete supports are needed to address the underlying issues that lead to neglect.  These supports include services that meet families’ basic needs, such as food, housing, transportation and employment. In more advanced cases, the need is for services such as drug/alcohol treatment, mental health treatment, parenting support and skill-building.  Providing these services in a culturally appropriate manner enhances the family’s chances at successfully addressing their challenges.
 
Across the state, we are working in collaboration with local communities to enhance the service array. These services are to specifically address needs of children and families who come to the attention of Child Welfare through a report of abuse or neglect.  Examples of the types of services communities are putting in place are family meeting facilitation; trauma and therapeutic services; enhanced family visitation; youth transition and mentoring services; intensive in-home services; parent navigators; parenting education and classes; parent mentoring and coaching; relief nurseries; housing stability assistance; emergency and short term housing supports; and employment assistance.
 
In May, Child Welfare will begin providing a new route for families to connect to these services. Differential Response is a redesign of the child welfare system's initial response for families with a screened in report of abuse or neglect. With a differentiated response system, there will be two tracks of response to families. Regardless of the track of response, all families involved with child welfare will receive a comprehensive child safety assessment by child welfare staff.  However, some families, where they are able to keep their children safe, will be offered services without opening a case with child welfare.
 
Just as every family is unique, the department's approach needs to be flexible enough to serve the family’s needs. Our design includes specific screening criteria to determine the best response to assess families and increase their success in keeping parenting their children safely at home.
 
Families can more successfully resolve issues when they take an active role in crafting the solution and where they have the opportunity to partner with child welfare and their community in the identification of services and supports needed. Our goal, and the goal of all communities, is to keep children safe and increase the strength and resiliency of families. During Child Abuse Prevention Month, we want to recognize the essential support families and children have received from Oregon’s Legislators and Governor Kitzhaber.  We are particularly grateful to have the opportunity to undertake this important work.
 
~Lois
  
4/7/2014
To: All DHS Staff and Stakeholders
Message from DHS Director Erinn Kelley-Siel
 
"Never get tired of doing little things for others. For sometimes, those little things occupy the biggest part of their heart." Ida Azhari
 
Hello DHS,
 
The sudden losses that our agency has experienced the last few weeks have served as a reminder to me of how precious life is and how it important it is to take the time to encourage and appreciate our colleagues, friends, and family while they are still with us.
 
In honor of the many little things Carolyn Ross did that have had a huge impact on the lives of people throughout this agency, Human Resources staff have created a Gratitude Box to collect stories and memories that can be sent to Carolyn's family.
 
I am hoping that this week we ALL participate in an intentional effort to encourage one another. I have had the privilege of visiting almost every office in this state and I know that many of our work units include recognition and encouragement as part of their regular course of business. I also know that those efforts can be tough to sustain, especially when things get busy.
 
So, if you would be so kind, please take some time this week to recognize your co-workers for who they are and what they do each and every day. Be specific and, of course, genuine -- and your statements of gratitude or recognition will have an even greater impact! This is not just a “feel good effort.” There is research that documents that a ratio of anywhere from 3-6 positive interactions for every negative one is needed for employees in the workforce to flourish. And, when we feel good about ourselves and our work, morale is higher and we are more productive.
 
So, whether you participate in this effort because you believe that kindness is one of the greatest gifts we can give one another, or because you want to get more work done -- my thanks to all of you for giving your days at work in service to others.
 
Take good care.
 
~Erinn
  
3/31/2014
  
3/10/2014
  
3/3/2014

Hello DHS,

As the Director, I take my responsibilities very seriously. Two of my most important responsibilities are the protection of vulnerable children, and the protection of the confidential, personal and private information of Oregonians.

Oregon state law and federal laws, passed and signed by elected representatives, set out very clear requirements for the confidentiality of information in child welfare cases -- and other DHS cases, too. The purpose of these laws is to ensure that the highly personal and sensitive information of the individuals involved is released only when parties to the case agree to make their own information public.

There are times when the public has a great desire to know more, and the laws make exceptions in certain circumstances. A good example is the CIRT process – that is, the Critical Incident Response Team process that happens when a child who is known to DHS is seriously injured or killed by abuse or neglect. In those tragic circumstances, Oregon law requires the state to release information about the agency’s actions with the child and family.

Nearly all of the rest of the information we receive and gather is protected – and it should be. We understand the delicate balance between the public's desire to know and the need to protect confidential information, but we follow the laws of this state and nation regarding the protection of the privacy, especially of children who have already been victimized by adults in their lives.

As a state agency, we have incredible power to change lives, and I am committed to using that power with a light touch and with reverence for the privacy of children and families we serve.

Thank you for all you do. Have a great week!

~ Erinn

  
2/18/2014

Hello DHS,

It’s been about six months since we made the decision to slow down the roll-out of Oregon Benefits Online, our web-based system for SNAP benefits. That decision allowed us to concentrate our support on the Fast Track access to the Oregon Health Plan – and assist OHA with the processing of paper applications and other essential tasks to help them at this crucial time. On that note, in case you haven’t already heard, because of the joint OHA/DHS effort through Fast Track enrollment, at least 123,000 more Oregonians now have health insurance. That number continues to grow and is life-changing for those individuals -- and deserves to be acknowledged.

As for Modernization, the point of this message is to give you a sense of where the initiative stands today. Remember, I said in a Director’s Message back in 2012 that “Modernization is about more than technology.” It was true then, and it is even truer today. Modernization is a broad, multi-year effort to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of DHS services in a variety of ways, including activities like:

  • Redesigning and streamlining business processes to improve customer service;
  • Leveraging data analytics to anticipate and implement policy and program changes that meet the ever-changing needs of our customers; and
  • Implementing changes in technology to maximize results for customers.

Let me start this update with the topic of technology, because that’s where we left off with the slow down on our automated benefits application. As you know, Oregon Benefits Online development work was put on hold in September, 2013. That “hold” remains in place as we conduct an internal business evaluation of our options and next steps with regard to the Oracle framework. There’s not much more to say: OBO is temporarily on hold, we’re examining our options to move forward, and will keep you posted on next steps. That being said, in keeping with the legislative direction coming out of the 2013 session, we have begun the planning process for development of a more holistic, online case management system. The core premise for the Case Management Online (CMO) project is to create technology that will enable human services case managers to access information and services across programs for the benefit of customers and clients.  DHS is currently planning and defining the scope of the first phase of this project, which will only include APD.  This is exciting work with huge potential to improve service coordination, reduce duplication and enhance the customer experience with our systems. Watch for more information in the coming weeks.

This “pause” in the roll-out of new technology has also given us an opportunity to redouble our efforts around service delivery transformation, and I am happy to report that there is some exciting work moving forward on that front. For example, the Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) team is currently analyzing how we handle customer paperwork and evaluating the idea of “paperless offices,” with electronic customer/case records and the potential for improved service, workflow, time and financial savings. Other initiatives from CI sheets or branch office pilot projects are also underway which are also focused on various aspects of service delivery improvement and transformation. These include telecommuting and outstationing, central call center, Skype/Lync remote connections, and case management pilots, just to name a few.

It’s been an incredibly busy six months since we put the brakes on in our Oregon Benefits Online roll-out, but I want to assure you that the our vision for Modernization is still moving forward. That vision translates into the reality of better outcomes for the individuals and families we serve and greater safety, health and independence for the state of Oregon.

Have a great week.

~ Erinn & Trina

  
2/3/2014
Hello DHS,
 
Before we get too far along in the work of 2014, I want to be sure to take a moment to recognize and celebrate the incredible progress of 2013. Last year was especially important because it set the course for the agency for the years to come. I believe 2013 will be remembered as the year we began to implement the vision we defined as the new DHS. That vision is based on a bottom-to-top management system, rooted in LDMS and continuous improvement, based on data and outcomes, and monitored by our Quarterly Business Reviews at the program and agency level.
 
The 2013 Legislature, with strong support from the Governor, made strategic investments in our Breakthrough Initiatives (most notably: Differential Response, Employment, Long-Term Services and Supports and Modernization) to improve the results we all want for the individuals and families we serve. Finally, on a personal note, I’ve heard from so many of you about the increased sense of empowerment and leadership you feel in your own ability to identify barriers and correct issues and problems in your local work groups. That’s a very positive sign that the vision we set is becoming the reality we see in action.
 
Many of you have already received a comprehensive list of accomplishments from your individual programs – and many more of you will be getting information from your program’s leadership in the days to come. For every area of the agency, there is an impressive body of work to showcase! Today, I want to share just a few of the highlights that stood out for me:
 
  • Let’s start with Information Technology: Improved bandwidth for branch offices and here in Salem, PC replacements in progress across the state and successful conversion from Blackberry devices to iPhones.
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Services: Continued of Closing the Employment Gap; increased the numbers of adults and youth who secured employment; and extended Project Access to work with tribal programs on youth transition.
  • Aging and People with Disabilities: Negotiated successfully a state plan amendment with CMS to implement the Community First Choice Option (K Plan), which helps Oregonians achieve well-being and independence through service options that respect choice and preserve dignity; diverted/ transitioned nearly 1,800 individuals from nursing facilities back into their own home or community based care settings; Aging and Disability Resource Connection (ADRC) is on track to be statewide by 2015, and approximately 60,000 Oregonians called the ADRC and 100,000 people visited the website last year; expanded Home Care Commission’s online registry to serve I/DD and mental health consumers, families, representatives and personal support workers; and developed infrastructure to support HB2216, a bill that reauthorized the nursing facility provider assessment and provides incentives for nursing facilities to operate more efficiently. 
  • Self Sufficiency Programs: Created the EBT Replacement Unit, tested and now in use statewide; the Legislature approved the plan to convert 167 HSS3’s into 162 Case Managers; employment placements topped 1,000 twice for the first time since 2007; along with APD/AAA offices, branches and Central Office provided essential support to OHP 2014 expansion.
  • Child Welfare Programs: Legislature approved 110 positions for field staff and an additional nine ICWA positions; completed design work and launched staged implementation of Differential Response, a redesign of Oregon’s “front door” to the child welfare system; reduced overdue assessments by 30%; provided renewed training in Oregon Safety Model; and made significant progress in statewide implementation of Strengthening, Preserving and Reunifying Families.
  • Office of Developmental Disabilities Services: Began implementation of the State K plan and changed associated rules to ensure better access to Medicaid- funded services; connected 5,000 people through family network organizations, helping families with I/DD to provide support and the opportunity to share life experiences together; in collaboration with the Home Care Commission, developed the STEPS training specific to the I/DD population; launched a successful Facebook page to enhance communications with providers, families, consumers and advocates; and refocused resources in the Stabilization and Crisis Unit (formerly SOCP) to better serve individuals through the crisis period and into stabilization so they can successfully return to an appropriate community placement.
  • Employment First Initiative: In collaboration with Oregon Department of Education and other community partners, worked to implement the requirements of the Executive Order; formed a statewide Stakeholder Policy Group to make recommendations and review the State’s progress; developed an Outreach and Awareness Plan that will help explain the benefits of employment and address concerns individuals with I/DD or their families have in pursuing community-based employment; developed a Career Development Plan policy and process to help clearly identify an individual’s employment goals and the supports needed; initiated training designed to expand service capacity and established core competencies for the basis of ongoing trainings; and began advanced data collection and reporting efforts so more information is available to monitor progress in making recommendations that further improve services and advance the goals.
  • CFO & Office of Budget & Finance: Developed improved forecast and reporting models for a variety of DHS, OHA and Shared Services programs; created the Workforce Management and Consulting Unit; implemented payroll system improvements, like e-paystub and expanded direct deposit; and put forth one of the best budget documents in years, according to one Legislator.
  • DHS Human Resources: The Background Check Unit did 125,539 checks for both DHS and OHA (117,000 of those were just for DHS); the Aspiring Leadership Facilitators graduated 3 classes of ALP; the Records Team assisted with the OHA/Cover Oregon hiring of temps; the Recruitment team did over 1,618 recruitments for DHS; and our workforce strategy was instrumental in our ability to fill positions across DHS programs.
 
These are only a few examples! Thank you for the work you’ve done and the work you are doing. As we move forward into 2014, our goals are to continue the work already underway to ensure we achieve the results we want, and we also will work to build on our progress with an increased emphasis on customer service, community engagement and service equity.
 
I am proud of what we have accomplished together – and I am proud of every individual who is doing this important work. Your dedication and commitment to the mission is a daily inspiration.
 
Have a great week.
 
~Erinn
 
 
  
1/27/2014

Hello DHS,

I haven’t done one of the Did You Know? messages for a while, but today is a good opportunity to pass one along. Did you know that DHS operates 24-hour residential programs for people who are in crisis and have exhausted all other resources within the state? It’s true – the program used to be known as SOCP (State Operated Community Program), but that old name has changed to better reflect their focus. The new name, Stabilization and Crisis Unit (SACU), supports the goal of serving these individuals through the crisis period and into stabilization so that they can successfully return to an appropriate community placement.

SACU consists of 23 residential homes from Portland to Eugene, with a total capacity of 108, serving 98 adults and 10 children. This includes people with developmental disabilities coming out of the Oregon State Hospital, correctional systems, and from crisis situations where counties and private providers cannot meet the needs of the individual, to ensure their health and safety. This is an ever-changing population displaying more aggressive, complex behaviors with a younger clientele. As you might expect, this can be a challenging population for our staff to serve.

Even though the name has changed, the program has not changed its mission, vision, goals or services. SACU will continue its focus on supporting people in community-based settings and enabling them to return to less intensive service levels as quickly as possible. It is addressing a changing population that involves more behaviorally challenging clients, moving from the medical clients for whom the system was originally created. Those medically fragile clients with I/DD are now mostly served through community-based private providers. SACU will continue to be a safety net for Oregon’s most vulnerable, intensive, medically and behaviorally challenged individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD) and to provide support when no other community-based option is available to them. 

I recently visited some of the SACU facilities in the Salem area with interim DD Director Trisha Baxter, and I would like to thank the leadership and staff at SACU for their past and ongoing efforts to support the individuals they serve through crisis and stabilization. The opportunity to see this important work close up provides important context for me as we work to improve services today and begin planning for the 2015 budget.

I especially want to recognize the new SACU Director, Jana McLellan, for her work to strengthen supports for clients and SACU staff and managers. This is difficult work, and Jana is a true leader in the efforts. Thank you.

Next week, I will be providing everyone with our annual “Year in Review” recap of progress in all DHS programs and services, so stay tuned for that.

Have a great week everyone.

~Erinn

  
1/17/2014
  
1/13/2014
Hello DHS and happy 2014 to everyone!
 
Let me begin the work of the New Year by looking at a quote from the acclaimed leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela: “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity. It is an act of justice. Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is manmade and can be overcome by the actions of human beings.”
 
A big part of our mission is working to reduce poverty and its effects in our state, which is why I’m excited to let you know that the conversation about poverty reduction and wage gain in Oregon is getting attention at the highest levels in the public and private sectors.
 
In December, I attended the Oregon Business Summit meeting in Portland, where the Governor and other Legislative and business leaders spoke. At the summit, the Path to Prosperity report (attached PDF) was presented. The report makes clear that while Oregon is beginning to see the economy improve, there are still too many residents living in poverty -- including nearly 25% of the state’s children.
 
The Path to Prosperity report sets out four key actions the state should take to reconnect Oregonians to the state’s improving economy:
 
  1. Create anti-poverty programs for specific populations, cultures and local labor markets. For example, the report states that effective poverty reduction in rural areas, for people with disabilities, and for communities of color will require different approaches.

  2. Improve education, vocational training and workforce initiatives to provide skills needed for contemporary family-wage jobs. This set of recommendations is very consistent with the work DHS is involved in as part of the workforce system redesign.

  3. Build an economy that offers more paths out of poverty by focusing on increasing the number of “middle class” jobs. The report highlights that income disparity in Oregon is growing, and that most of the new jobs being created are actually low-wage jobs that make it difficult for people to move from poverty to prosperity.

  4. Finally, state legislators and others (including DHS) need to re-think what an adequate safety net should be. The report states that Oregon is overdue for a conversation about what to do about the fact that recipients of safety net services, like cash assistance and housing subsidies, usually subsist on incomes well below the federal poverty level. It also highlights the fact that our policies, as currently designed, actually create disincentives for people to move off of public assistance.
 
The Oregon business community, through the Business Plan, has set a goal of reducing Oregon’s poverty rate by 10% by the year 2020. It’s clear that to achieve that goal, the public and private sectors are going to have to work more closely together than ever before. It’s also clear that this effort is going to challenge all of us to think about and do our work differently. I am looking forward to that challenge. As this action-oriented, partnership agenda continues to develop, the year ahead will see a continued focus on employment for DHS. For most of the people we serve, employment is critical to safety, health and independence.
 
Of course, as the Path to Prosperity report so clearly points out, there is much more to do. But as we tackle those challenges together, let me take this opportunity to thank you for the work you do in the fight to improve lives and reduce poverty and its effects of children, youth, adults and families.
 
Have a great week.
 
~Erinn
 
PS: Last week, the nation also marked the 50th anniversary President Lyndon Johnson’s declaration of war on poverty. Here are a few links to news stories about that landmark event:
 
  
1/6/2014
Hello DHS,
 
I wanted to make sure you all saw last week's message from acting OHA Director Tina Edlund. You can read the full version.
 
She said:
The New Year brings good news to more than 130,000 Oregonians who are now enrolled in the Oregon Health Plan. And so far an estimated 18,000 Oregonians have enrolled through Cover Oregon for private coverage beginning January 1. I think by the time we are finished we could have close to 150,000 total January enrollees, which is just about equal to the population of Salem.
 
I know getting all these people enrolled has meant hard work and long hours for hundreds of people. Many OHA and DHS employees worked nights and weekends to make it happen. I want to thank them and also their families and friends who may have seen a little less of our staff than they would like over the holidays. They, too, should get credit for what was accomplished in Oregon in 2013.
 
In every part of Oregon today people are more secure economically and have access to health care that they didn’t have before. This is a historic accomplishment. And this accomplishment builds on the work we have done over the past few years to create the coordinated care model for better health, better care and lower costs.
 
Some of you may have seen a national study using 2008 information that was released earlier this week showing that when people gain Medicaid coverage there is increased emergency department use. The study was done using the Oregon Health Plan’s so-called “lottery” population. The story in Oregon today is a different one than five years ago and it points the direction for other states that are expanding their Medicaid programs. With the coordinated care model we believe we can mitigate or even neutralize any upticks in unnecessary hospital use and increase primary care use. Look at what we’ve seen so far: Our most recent Health System Transformation Report shows that through the coordinated care organizations, emergency department visits decreased by 9 percent from 2011 levels. Hospitalizations for congestive heart failure have dropped by 29 percent. Meanwhile, primary care visits for Oregonians served by coordinated care organizations increased 18 percent. 
 
Health care coverage isn’t enough. That’s why in Oregon we are taking the approach that if you provide the right care at the right time in the right place, you can create a more sustainable and successful health care system. I know we will get there.
 
PS: If you know of anyone who is new to the Oregon Health Plan and would like more information on how to use it, visit the resources page for new members.
 
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Have a great week!
 
~Erinn
 
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