Summit County Human Services Department receives recognition from the state of Colorado |

Summit County Human Services Department receives recognition from the state of Colorado

Oyuki Munoz works with Janet Wolfson at the Summit County Human Services department.
Photo from Joanne Sprouse / Summit County Human Services Department

FRISCO — Local human services departments have never been as important as they are right now. 

In a time of economic uncertainty, people are relying on human services to get the resources they need in a timely and efficient manner. Summit County’s human services department has proven they can do just that. 

For the fourth year in a row, the Summit County Human Services Department has been recognized by the state for its performance. The state uses a performance management tool called Colorado Statistics, or C-Stat, to assess departments on how well they are doing the job. 

Summit County was included in a list of 19 counties in the state that were identified as “distinguished performers” for 2019. The county placed ninth out of those 19 counties. 

Department director Joanne Sprouse said the recognition comes down to the county’s ability to provide services in a timely and accurate manner. 

“When people come in, they don’t have food on the table, they may have lost their jobs, they’re looking for medicaid, they’re looking for a variety of services (and) we can get to them quickly,” she said. 

Brandy Davis, who is a county performance improvement specialist at the Colorado Department of Human Services, said the counties who received this distinction excel at providing the services that people need. 

“What stands out in Summit County is their ability to just meet the needs of their community timely,” she said. “When a county has low resources but they still meet their customers’ needs on a regular basis, that’s outstanding.”

While this year’s recognition was about performance in 2019, Sprouse said she’s sure the county’s department will excel in 2020’s reviews as well. Since the novel coronavirus pandemic forced people into their homes, causing many to lose their jobs, the department has had to step up to a huge increase in demands. 

Demand for economic security services such as food assistance have sky-rocketed since the pandemic began. In February, the department had a food assistance caseload of a little more than 250 people. In March, that caseload grew to just over 400. In June the caseload was just above 600. 

“We were going from one to two applications (for food assistance before the pandemic),” Sprouse said. “Suddenly in March and the beginning of April it went to like 50 and 60 per day. So you see the impact on that area of the department.”

The number of cases for the county’s food assistance program have increased dramatically since the pandemic began.
Graph from Joanne Sprouse / Summit County Human Services Department

The department also saw an increase in demand for the meals-on-wheels program at the Summit County Community and Senior Center. In May, meals-on-wheels served around 2,000 meals. 

While caseloads didn’t increase dramatically for child welfare, the department did see an increase in the severity of cases, Sprouse said. 

“(We were) having a lot of people not working, they’re in their home, there’s some domestic violence, mental health issues, so we saw increases in the severity in our cases,” she said. “It’s been a lot of pressure for our department.”

Davis said the increase in demand is not unique to Summit County. Departments across the state have been having to do more with less. 

“There are a lot more Colorado families that are experiencing unemployment,” Davis said. “Many of them have applied for assistance in the ways that you might expect … We have seen our county partners really step up to the plate and support families.”

Colorado Department of Human Services spokeswoman Madlynn Ruble said the state has also seen an increase in calls to the crisis services line. 

“We’re seeing just an increase in need really across the board,” she said.

Sprouse said the department plans to keep up the work throughout 2020 and continue to provide the community with the services they need. 

“I have an awesome staff,” she said. “From the managers who lead and are great role models in terms of being sensitive to clients and addressing issues down to all of our front line workers. They’re an incredible group … They put the clients at number one.”

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