Ann Busche: How Public Health and Human Services helps adults with disabilitiesThis article is the third in a series aimed at helping you get to know your Public Health and Human Services (PHHS) Department.
By: Ann Busche, Budgeteer News
This article is the third in a series aimed at helping you get to know your Public Health and Human Services (PHHS) Department.
PHHS is structured by program areas as follows: adult disabilities, children and family services, elderly services, financial assistance and public health. We also have a division of administration which provides all the support functions, such as accounting, clerical support and contract management to these programmatic areas. So, in the spirit of getting to know PHHS, here’s some detail on the adult disabilities division:
As you may have guessed from the title, this division deals with adults, ages 18 to 64, who have some form of disability.
The state tells us who we must serve and how, through state statute and rule; we have further categorized our services as mission critical, mandated and voluntary.
In adult disabilities, we consider the following services as mission critical because they provide for the basic health and safety of the individual and/or the state has clearly defined the service as one that must be done by county employees:
• Protecting vulnerable adults from sexual abuse, physical or emotional abuse or neglect, medical neglect and financial exploitation.
• Acting guardian of state wards. These are individuals whom the court has deemed unable to make decisions for themselves. Our staff makes decisions to ensure the person has a safe place to live, gets adequate medical care, etc.
• Rule 24 eligibility for chemical dependency treatment services through the state Consolidated Chemical Dependency Treatment Fund (CCDTF). The state requires county employees to determine if an individual financially meets the guidelines to be eligible for their treatment to be paid through this state fund. In 2008, there were 1,146 residents of St. Louis County who received chemical dependency treatment services paid for through the CCDTF.
The department receives about 120 to 130 reports per month from individuals who have concerns about adults behaving strangely or living in conditions that don’t look very clean or safe.
When we receive a call, the first step we must take is to determine if the person meets the legal definition of a vulnerable adult. If that person is not categorically or functionally vulnerable, we can only offer services; the adult can refuse services, even those services which may improve their quality of life.
Adults who do not meet the legal definition of vulnerable are considered competent to make their own decisions and choices of how they live, who they associate with, who they share their money with and how they spend their time. These competent adults can chose to live a lifestyle that you and I may find unacceptable, even harmful, but that is their decision and their legal right, as difficult as that may be to understand.
The adult disabilities division also provides services that are considered mandated. These are services the state has determined that counties must ensure are provided to citizens, but they can be delivered by county employees or through contracts with private or non-profit providers:
• Chemical health assessment and services, including detoxification.
• Acting as the local mental health authority, develop and coordinate adult mental health services, including crisis response teams and assertive community teams.
• Assess the needs of individuals with mental health or developmental disabilities, then develop a plan of services to address those needs and monitor throughout. We call this “case management.”
There is one service provided that is considered voluntary, and this is acting as the representative payee for individuals who are disabled and unable to manage their own finances.
We manage their money so that their rent, heat and electricity are paid to prevent homelessness.
Ann Busche is the director of the St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services department. Contact her at 726-2096 or firstname.lastname@example.org.