Grant County Department of Social Services


Morgan Fuerstenberg graphic

The Grant County Department of Social Services Board met Nov. 3. The first motion approved was the use of a youth assessment and screening program called Youth Assessment & Screening Instrument. The youth justice system is utilizing YASI to divert youth from the juvenile justice system to make sure kids never enter the justice system. Clark Theleman mentioned that the human brain does not  stop developing the impulse control sections until individuals are well into their twenties and that the justice system must acknowledge that kids are different. 

YASI is an evidence-based tool that begins as a pre-screen assessment of 30 questions with a family to understand the risk level of reoffending. If it’s passed, a full screen assessment of about 80 questions is conducted with the family. Krystal Lorenz mentioned that they are trained to make the sets of screening questions conducted with families feel like regular conversations rather than interviews.  

If the district attorney goes through with filing charges, a case will go to court and an ongoing social worker will be assigned to the case to prepare recommendations of what must happen for a child to not return to the system based on the family’s strengths and needs. 

YASI is a tool that keeps the justice system from being too involved with individuals’ lives and, according to Theleman, being too involved can increase the rate of offending for low-risk offenders. YASI helps the program focus all of its interventions and services on medium to high-risk offenders. 

It was asked if YASI was implemented statewide. Implementing YASI as a statewide program is in phase three. Starting Dec. 1, the YASI program will be used for all new cases and assessments and youth justice records will be able to transfer from county to county. 

Next on the agenda was the maintenance update on the Community Services Building. It has been transformed into a warm and inviting environment through the Coordinated Service Teams grant and facilitation by the staff. 

In the next approved agenda item, an expenditure from the fuel program of $6,000 went toward giving 355 electric blankets out at Elder Fest. These blankets were given away so the eldery would have something to throw over themselves when they’re at home, because it’s expected that many of them will try to save money by turning their furnace temperatures down. This winter is expected to be colder with an increase in fuel costs.

There was $285 in training that was done. Training lasts three weeks and includes workshops on how to improve foster care. Foster parents and service support specialists help parents with raising teenagers specifically. With most training being virtual, collaboration amongst county workers has been missing from the process recently.

The board approved $11,000 from the CST grant, allocating it toward purchasing Microsoft Surface Pros to help simplify training sessions with families. 

Another expenditure of $7,800 was approved for helping people who are harder to serve find care, because most nursing homes won’t take those placements. 

Next on the agenda, the 2021 DSS Management Report stated that over 10 months, 83% of the budget had been expended, which is right on target. 

Targeted case management was budgeted for $12,000, but there was $2,000 more than anticipated due to special cases that required medical assistance.

The Administration 2022 DSS budget update was discussed. The Executive Committee chose to carry over $2,000 to fund the budget to help the Social Services Department cover any overages of care facilities rather than move the entire amount for the carry over to the general fund.

Next on the agenda was the administration’s COVID-19 response. Nearly every county in Wisconsin has case numbers in the “high trans middle realm.” People are still asked to wear face masks in the Community Services Building whether they’re vaccinated or not. To address social distancing, staff are limited from sharing offices and most staff work from home two to three days a week. 

Addressing the methamphetamine crisis was next on the agenda. Administration employees of the Southwest Region discussed preventative measures regarding the high usage rates of methamphetamine. A prevention specialist was hired to develop programs that keep people from using drugs and alcohol. The main concerns are that the drug is being made in more ways than before and can also be made without negative effects. Because of its broader availability, the cost has significantly dropped as well. An increase in methamphetamine means an increase in fentanyl overdoses, a risk of drug use that was also mentioned. 

For people who stay addicted to methamphetamine, their brains change and a board member suggested that parents who use this drug can’t get themselves to see their children. Foster care rates are high and many foster care cases have been attributed to parents using meth. Grant County is waiting to hear back from other administrations about programs they’ve implemented that have had an impact on people in their counties.

The next topic was the Children’s Long Term Support Program and Adult Services workload. The CLTS numbers are continuing to go up. In the state budget, the Department of Health Services received enough funding that there is no longer a wait list for children when they apply for CLTS. The Southwest Family Care Alliance, made up of eight counties, became the MCO, which provides long-term care services and contracts with each county to provide case management or transfer cases to new hires in order to address workload issues. 

Then the board discussed future challenges for long-term care programs and protective services. Supportive home care agencies, like Orchard Manor, are having a hard time finding staff. A common alternative is when guardians and families want to keep a dependent family member at home and are willing to take the risk which can sometimes be unsafe. The projection is that as Grant County ages, more people will need long-term care services and fewer people will be giving those services. When these plans in families aren’t safe, that falls onto the county in terms of protective services or placements. A committee to address the workforce in long-term care programs will potentially be assembled. 

The next item on the agenda was the 2022 Targeted Safety Support Fund. TSSF helps counties provide prevention services to families to keep members from being removed from the home. The TSSF was approved by the board and will be taken to the full board as a grant application for $99,000. This grant will be used for supervised visitations and in home services through Orion Social Services in relation to elder abuse. This additional money wouldn’t need to be used by the end of the year and whatever isn’t spent can be used next year.

The next item on the agenda was the Director’s Report. The annual Southwest Consortium for Economic Support Meeting was Nov. 2 when they looked at statistics from numerous areas the state monitors and measures and the Grant County Consortium are ranked either first or second place consistently regarding meeting all the requirements that the state focuses on. 

It is anticipated that Bill 395 will be assigned and go into effect. The bill focuses on adults and elders at risk of abuse. For adults at risk of abuse, the county may initiate a response. For elders, the language in the bill is changed from “may” to “shall,’” which means that there are more extensive criteria that must be met for elders at risk. 

Unified recently did medication safety training for all staff, which consisted of a one-hour session about safely disposing of medications no longer needed. This training was a direct response to the ongoing opioid problem. Staff who attended the meeting received a bag with a lock on it as a way of keeping medications safely stored at home. Law enforcement also accepts medication turn-ins. 

Money from the Safe and Stable Family Program and Funding was approved to be reallocated toward developing peer support programs. Parents who have been successful in programs, who would be interested in being matched up with families like the partnership program style in AA programs, would act as support for families in need. A teacher from Potosi said they wrote for this grant because they’re tired of seeing third generations coming through these services and that these are the types of things that can impact families.