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Complaints at DSHS rise as state funding drops

Wed., Sept. 21, 2011

High demand helps create long waits, slow response

Demand for social services increased dramatically at the same time Washington state cut those services for an increasing number of poor, jobless residents.

The number of state residents experiencing long-term unemployment tripled and the number of poor adults increased by 11 percent between 2008 and 2009, according to the Department of Social and Health Services Client Survey released Tuesday. There also were 13 percent more children living in poverty and 39 percent more hungry families.

While the department has 14 percent fewer employees since 2008, it has seen a 78 percent increase in Basic Food recipients, a 30 percent increase in clients receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and a 25 percent increase in Disability Lifeline clients.

The elimination of some programs and a reduction in the hours other services were available resulted in dissatisfaction with DSHS among clients, the survey showed.

Negative comments about access to staff increased by more than 50 percent overall and jumped by 68 percent among clients of Community Services Offices since 2009. The number of clients concerned about medical and dental benefits increased by 66 percent.

Clients reported difficulty getting appointments, slow response to emergencies, long waits in lobbies and unanswered phone calls.

However, 91 percent of DSHS clients said state programs helped them and their families, many of whom applied for state social services for the first time. More than 85 percent said the department does good work.

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