The Michigan Department of Human Services soon will undergo administrative changes, which include the shifting of management for some Northeast Michigan counties.
On Dec. 12, DHS will implement the creation of new multi-county administrative units. The administrative shifts are being made in response to recent or upcoming retirements coming from the state's enhanced retirement package. Statewide, 24 DHS directors and a number of staff from other parts of the department are retiring, said Doug McCombs, DHS director for Alpena and Presque Isle counties.
McCombs said there are plans to replace the front line employees who deal with the public, but management is taking the largest hit by not replacing employees. The department plans to replace 12 of the 24 retiring directors.
"With only half as many directors, something had to be done with county configurations," he said.
DHS began looking at smaller populated counties to see where management could be combined, because this isn't possible with larger counties. The counties also were asked to indicate what their preferences were for certain pairings. The governmental units have been informed of the upcoming changes through the human services coordinating councils in each county, McCombs said.
Under the new administrative units, Presque Isle County will be paired with Cheboygan County and Alcona, Alpena and Montmorency counties will become a three-county unit. Iosco County, which currently is paired with Alcona, will join Roscommon and Ogemaw counties in a unit, McCombs said.
"They're not talking any office closures with this new structure," he said.
McCombs said he is retiring from his job on Jan. 1 and John Keller, children services manager, will take over as the acting director for Alpena, Alcona and Montmorency counties on Dec. 12. He will assist Keller with the transition during his last few weeks in the position.
Keller said he is looking forward to the challenge of taking over McComb's leadership for the three counties. For the past two weeks, he has been in transition meetings with the current and future acting directors in the other counties. The transition plans are being done on a daily and weekly basis, he said.
"I think what we're looking for with this tri-county arrangement is maybe a managerial system that's centralized and takes into account the individual counties' needs," he said. "Each county has its own identity, and we need to be sensitive to that."
Keller said the changes will have little or no impact on most residents because many of the counties have offices that are open and will continue to provide services. Alcona County residents will be slightly impacted with the changes because there is no office in the county. Letters were sent to approximately 1,200 Alcona residents on Nov. 22, notifying them of the changes and giving them the option to continue going to the office in Iosco County or indicate a preference to go to another DHS office.
Keller and McCombs said residents with questions about their specific case and the administrative changes should contact their DHS worker.
Patty Ramus can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5687.