BAKERSVILLE – The Mitchell County Department of Social Services was among the first in the state of North Carolina to host an event to educate residents about Medicaid Transformation.
Mitchell County DSS Director Sara Ross said Monday, Nov. 4, during a meeting of the DSS Board more than 200 people, 40 vendors and 200 vendor participants attended the Medicaid Transformation and Community Resource Fair Saturday, Nov. 2, at Mitchell High School, during which 74 people were screened for enrollment and 67 were enrolled.
“This is a big deal in regard to Medicaid reform and getting the word out to folks about all the changes and trying to get them enrolled so they can maintain their services,” Ross told the Mitchell County Board of Commissioners.
Also during her report, Ross said the DSS had received 224 reports so far this year, and 166 reports were screened in at a rate of 74 percent, which is consistent with the state average.
DSS in-home services are currently serving 14 children. The average length-of-stay in in-home services is averaging 140 days with a maximum expectation of 180 days. Ross said her internal goal is 120-days.
“The more we’re involved in a home, the more disruption and the less likely it is like a home,” Ross said. “Our goal is to minimize interruption to a family while ensuring the family has access to the services they need, and the home is a safe environment for all who reside at that location.”
There is currently a total of 51 children in foster care in Mitchell County, according to Ross’ report, with all but 15 being placed out of the county.
“One of the things I’m really proud of is our collaboration to bring more foster homes to Mitchell County,” Ross said. “That was one of the priorities you guys put in front of me when you hired me and when I walked on, we had nine licensed homes, today we have 14 and five more therapeutic homes that we’re working.”
Commissioner and DSS Board chair Jacob Willis told Ross the decrease in the number of foster children is a result of her hard work.
“Three years ago, we had 90 some children in custody, and today we have 51,” Willis said. “Those children have homes and a bright future now, and that is due to your employees and your hard work. We are going to continue to do that hard work and continue to do the right thing.”
Ross also discussed during her report the federal measures for Mitchell County and the number of residents served by daycare vouchers. She also said there had been a significant increase in referrals around adult protective services.
Foster parent Cassandra Horton urged the Board of Commissioners during the public comment portion of the regular commissioners’ meeting urged the board to double-check the numbers Ross reported in the DSS meeting.
“There were some numbers brought up that were either inaccurate, or Ms. Ross misspoke,” Horton said. “I attended a foster care meeting a few weeks ago, and we were told there were five licensed foster homes in Mitchell County, and she just said there were 14. I would like to know if you double-check numbers because I want to make sure there is a correct representation of the growth.”
Horton said being a foster parent in Mitchell County has been one of the greatest joys of her life. She has housed 12 children in her home in the past year.
“It has been a very tough road,” Horton said. “I have firsthand knowledge of something Ms. Ross brought up, and that was about moving children out of Mitchell County and bringing them back home. I had a situation where I got a phone call from a social worker at 5 p.m. on Thursday, and she removed the child at 9 p.m. on Friday. They not only moved this child, but they also moved this child an hour and 45 minutes away to Hendersonville. My time was not looked at as important, my home was not, and my children’s lives were not. It was, ‘This needs done, and it needs done now.’ I want to make sure when we are moving forward, we are moving forward in a progressive way and not in a way that only looks good on paper. We need to make sure the agenda being brought forth is meeting the numbers on paper. I do not feel those numbers are being met. Her numbers two weeks ago are not the numbers she presented here tonight.”