Lowry announces DSHS changes

OLYMPIA - Building on earlier changes, Gov. Mike Lowry today announced a plan to create an independent Children's Ombudsman to monitor the state's child protection system while shifting licensing and internal investigation functions at the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). The changes are part of the governor's efforts to bring greater accountability to the state's human services agency.

"We have studied this issue intensively over the last six weeks and found that these adjustments will best fix the holes in our system without negatively affecting services to families and children," Lowry said.

The governor's plan accomplishes the following:

Lowry said these changes will build upon his supplemental budget request for more workers and services to effectively tackle the child protection problem in the state. Last month, the governor formally requested 132 more children's services social workers, 22 substance abuse specialists and 23 group home and foster care licensers. He also earmarked $2.6 million for substance abuse assessment and treatment slots.

The accountability changes proposed today were recommended by a roundtable of experts on child protection services. Newly appointed DSHS Secretary Lyle Quasim said the changes are tightly aimed at reducing the risk of agency error without making service delivery more chaotic.

"Family problems are complex and you can't address them too simply," Quasim said. "Each client of DSHS uses an average of three agency services, such as medical assistance, income assistance, food stamps, or mental health services. The best solution is to make a comprehensive evaluation and deliver these services together, not to create more red tape."

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For more information, contact the Governor's Communications Office at 360-753-6790.