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Friday, March 20, 2015

Howard County Transition Report

     New administrations bring new perspectives and changes to Howard County.  This is a healthy process.  With the release of the Transition Report from the Kittleman Administration we learn of some proposed changes.  One of the interesting changes mentioned is the possibility of creating a new Health and Human Services Department and the creation of a Department on Aging.  Montgomery County has long since had a similar Health and Human Services Department.  Montgomery County has always been different from other jurisdictions in Maryland in how they have consolidated their health and human services.  In Montgomery County the employees of Social Services and the Health Department are county employees and not state employees.  This is different from other counties in Maryland.  Also some of the non profit human services in Howard County, such as crisis services, are also provided by Montgomery County employees.  The rationale for having these services under county control is that the services can be better coordinated under county control than where these services fall under county, state and non profit auspices.   Here is what the report said about the creation of a Department of Health and Human Resources:

      "Creating a Department of Health and Human Resources. In the Department of Citizens Services portion of the Transition Team Report, there is a recommendation that the creation of a Department of Aging be considered; however, there was also a strong minority opinion in that Committee that a Department of Health and Human Services be considered. Discussions with representatives from the Department of Health and the Mental Health Authority added further impetus to the idea that public policies and programs intersect with the citizenry along the continuum of each person’s life, not just at one age or another. Therefore, there could be a number of positive synergies created by bringing together the functions of the Health Department, the Mental Health Authority, the Office of Children’s Services, the Office of Aging, Disability Services,  Housing and any other current government functions under one department. This suggestion will require considerable thought and understanding; fortunately, however, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Montgomery County has developed such a department so that evaluating how this approach has worked in another community will not be difficult. The effectiveness of such an integration of function could be attractive to emulate in Howard County."

    Here is what the report said about the creation of a Department of Aging Services:

    "Establish a task force to evaluate the merits of elevating the Office of Aging to the Department of Aging to appropriately address the growing and increasingly diverse senior population. The new Department of Aging must be able to address the issues that most affect our senior citizens – health, the ability to remain in their homes, access to affordable housing, transportation, protection from parasitic and criminal economic practices, caregiver support from family or other sources, and the aging population’s need for physical and social accessibility to their surrounding community. 
    " The Department/Office of Aging needs to adopt policies and procedures consistent with the proposed 20-year Master Plan for the Older Adult Population to deal with a growing, increasingly diverse aging population requiring special services to remain healthy and independent. "
     " Consider an alternative approach to creating a new Department of Aging, though on a much larger scale, by evaluating the merits of creating a Department of Health and Human Services that would be charged with identifying and meeting the needs of our population throughout the continuum of life." 


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