Ann Busche: Getting to know Public Health and Human ServicesThe first in a series of articles to help you get to know your Public Health and Human Services department a little better.
By: Ann Busche, Budgeteer News
I have been writing this community column for about two years now, and I always search for topics that I hope you, the readers, will find helpful and relevant. I was searching for a topic for this month’s article —should it be an upbeat topic centered on the holidays or the somber topic of the state’s budget deficit? — when I decided perhaps it was time to write a series of articles to help you get to know your Public Health and Human Services department a little better. Here’s the first installment.
Public Health and Human Services (PHHS) is one of 15 county departments. We are the largest in terms of number of employees and budget. In fact, our 585 employees make up about a third of the total county employees, with the other 14 departments accounting for the remaining two-thirds. Our 2009 budget of $78 million is about 22 percent of the county’s total budget.
We are a service industry: Much of our budget is to purchase services from the private sector or to pay for our staff to deliver services. In fact, 98 percent of the work we do is on behalf of the state of Minnesota. Not only does the state tell us what to do, they also stipulate, through statute and rule, exactly how to do that work. (More about this in future articles.)
PHHS was “created” in 2004, when the former Social Services department was integrated with the former Public Health department. This integration has enabled cost savings through less duplicative administrative structures — for example, both departments previously had their own director.
It has also enabled us to provide services more holistically.
An example of this is our efforts on the prevention of fetal alcohol syndrome, where a public health nurse and a children’s social worker work with the medical community and pregnant mothers on early intervention with a goal of an alcohol-free pregnancy and a healthy baby.
PHHS has offices in Duluth, in the Government Services Center, and in Virginia, Hibbing and Ely. We begin serving the citizens of the county before they are born, through our work with pregnant mothers, to after they have passed on through the burial of indigent individuals.
One of the biggest challenges of our work is the huge geography — we deliver services to people in their homes, which means we drive lots of miles!
A few other statistics about the county and the 200,000-plus people we serve (based on 2000 census data):
• Sixteen percent of the population is older than 65 years of age, which is slightly higher than the statewide average of 12 percent older than 65 years of age;
• The county’s median age is 39 years, higher than the state’s median age of 35.4 years;
• Twenty-two percent of the population is younger than age 18, lower than the state average of 26 percent;
• Twelve percent of individuals live in poverty, higher than the state’s average of 7.9 percent;
• Thirty-one percent live in their household alone, higher than the statewide average of 27 percent.
What do these statistics mean for us in PHHS?
Generally, we have a population that is aging, many struggling to make ends meet, who perhaps live alone and, when they need help, who do they turn to?
We see the role of PHHS to be the safety net, to ensure individual’s basic needs are being met and they are safe.
Writer Ann Busche is the director of the St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services department. Contact her at 726-2096 or email@example.com.