When the Redwood County human services and public health departments officially merged with the Southwest Health and Human Services (SWHHS) organization those involved with the transition knew there would be bumps in the road.
Yet, as that changeover has been going on the results have been positive, and according to Chris Soren-son, SWHHS director, the process has been going much better than anyone expected.
Sorenson and other administrative leadership from SWHHS met with the Redwood County Board of Commis-sioners Tuesday afternoon as part of the county board’s regular meeting.
The meeting was held in the afternoon in order to allow the board the chance to move right into its board of equalization hearing as the board meeting ended.
“I think people are starting to feel at home with us,” said Sorenson, adding the staff from Redwood County who joined the SWHHS team have been a great addition.
While the residents are likely not going to see much of a difference in services, the taxpayers are going to see differences, especially in terms of the levy. Beyond the initial up-front buy-in the county had to provide, Sorenson said over time it looks as if the county’s levy would be reduced.
In fact, he said the levy should be about $700,000 less annually based on the kinds of savings the county may experience as part of this much larger organization.
Sorenson also said efficiencies could mean a lower levy for public health, as the Redwood County portion of the budget comes more in line with the funds being provided by the five other counties in SWHHS.
The reason SWHHS is able to provide the same services without dramatic costs is because as an entity it has a much larger pool of people.
The six-county collaborative group, which includes Lyon, Murray, Lincoln, Rock, Pipe-stone and Redwood counties, have a population together that exceeds 74,000, and that, said Sorenson, puts it on a more level playing field with some of the suburban counties of Minnesota. With that kind of representation, SWHHS has greater leverage and a greater voice in St. Paul.
Working together the counties also can negotiate better prices for items it needs, and purchasing in larger quantities also means being able to get better prices for those items.
According to Soren-son, as SWHHS moves forward the plan is to create greater efficiencies, especially as it relates to technology.
“We are creating a staff that is becoming more mobile,” said Sor-enson, adding staff who specialize in particular areas are now going from one county to the next to meet with clients, and providing them with technology they can take with them from one location to the next means they have access to information as well as the capability of doing more of their paperwork where they are rather than having to return to one specific office location.
Page 2 of 2 - The county is currently experiencing an income increase, as it leases space to SWHHS for the local human services and public health programs, and as the plan continues to bring the two departments under one roof in Redwood County those lease income dollars are still going to be paid.
The organization is moving toward a paperless program that Sorenson said in the long run is going to mean cost savings for the organization as a whole.