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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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DSHS to cut 380 workers, among other actions

OLYMPIA – One of the state’s largest agencies will cut 380 employees, give the remaining staff two more days of unpaid leave and reduce the amounts spent on long-term care, mental health, children’s assistance and several other programs. The Washington Department of Social and Health Services detailed Wednesday how it will absorb the mandated 6.3 percent budget cut that most state agencies other than public schools must take because of lower-than-expected tax revenues.

DSHS to cut staff by 380

OLYMPIA -- One of the state's largest agencies will cut 380 employees, give the remaining staff two more days of unpaid leave and reduce the amounts spent on long-term care, mental health, children's assistance and several other programs.

State budget woes strike welfare program

OLYMPIA – Fewer people will qualify for a state welfare program that provides child care subsidies and help finding a job under cuts announced by Gov. Chris Gregoire on Thursday. She said that at least $51 million is being cut from WorkFirst, the state’s welfare-to-work program, because while enrollment continues to rise, matching funds from the federal government have remained flat since the 1990s.

Medicaid clients to get service cards

About 183,000 people on Medicaid in Spokane and northeastern Washington will receive service cards replacing monthly paper coupons beginning this week.

DSHS defends job cuts

OLYMPIA – Washington lawmakers took calculated risks when they adopted a budget that lopped more than $4 billion in state programs and spending this year, but officials say the reality of the cuts is going to take time to set in. One budget choice getting a close look recently from Republican Rep. Gary Alexander and state labor unions is in the Office of Financial Recovery at the state’s largest agency, the Department of Social and Health Services. DSHS is getting rid of close to 500 full-time positions over two years, and about 16 are being eliminated in the 95-employee unit that recovers overpayments for Medicaid and other medical services.

Prosecutor rakes DSHS office

A “pattern of misconduct” plagues the Colville office of the Department of Social and Health Services and has resulted in the wrongful removal of foster children, in one instance described in a court ruling as a “draconian solution” to a financial dispute, according to the county prosecutor. The sharply worded letter, sent Wednesday to Gov. Chris Gregoire, Attorney General Rob McKenna and more than 30 state legislators and state employees, follows months of investigation by Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen and accuses the DSHS office of “shopping” for doctors and counselors to support its agenda, ignoring rules regarding the removal of foster children and contradicting recommendations from health care providers.

Our View: Summer Phelps report illustrates need for reform

The child fatality review in the Summer Phelps case punctuates the state’s arduous journey in reforming the way it goes about protecting vulnerable children. Before the 4-year-old girl’s horrible death at the hands of her father in March 2007, Washington’s child welfare system had endured a failed federal audit, a class-action lawsuit by former foster children and other high-profile fatalities. Robin Arnold-Williams has come and gone as director of the Department of Social and Health Services, and Cheryl Stephani, former director of the state’s Children Administration, has also moved on. Both arrived in 2005 amid controversies. The previous Children’s Administration director lasted only 19 months.

Proposals focus on preventing deaths like Summer’s

The Department of Social and Health Services Children's Administration issued today its review of how it handled the case of Summer Phelps, who was 4 when she died in March 2007 after being burned, beaten and drowned.

Communication specialists fight ABC soup

The acronym list at Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services Web site runs 53 pages. OUCH. The acronym list for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare stretches 37 pages. YIKES. But fortunately for citizens, both departments employ communication specialists who once toiled in daily newspaper journalism. There, they learned to translate jargon, and now they beat the drum against acronyms.

State may close teen runaway centers

Spokane’s center for teenage runaways could close this year if the Legislature agrees to cuts proposed by the Department of Social and Health Services. Nine centers in nine cities, including Wenatchee, Yakima and Kennewick, would close by July under the proposal, saving $9.4 million in the 2009-’11 budget. Spokane’s center costs about $370,000 a year.

Report says DSHS complaints hit ‘all-time high’

Vulnerable children in Washington need to be placed in permanent, safe homes – preferably with caring relatives. And the quicker, the better. That’s the main message in a 102-page report issued this week by Mary Meinig, director of the Office of Family and Children’s Ombudsman, an agency that investigates concerns about the Department of Social and Health Services.

Nurse program, DSHS suffer from budget issues

Government budget shortfalls in Washington and Idaho have resulted in cuts to programs that protect vulnerable children. In North Idaho, the Panhandle Health District’s Public Health Nurse Home Visiting Program will suspend its services. The district’s nurses visited homes where small children, including newborns, were at potential risk because of their parents’ lack of experience or family health and money problems. The nurses provided free education and support.