Jefferson County DSS needs more case workers, report says

Jefferson County DSS report
Published: Jul. 26, 2023 at 5:58 AM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Tuesday night consultants from the Bonadio Group presented their findings to Jefferson County lawmakers from an investigation of the Department of Social Services.

One of its recommendations is adding case workers.

DSS commissioner Teresa Gaffney says that would help reduce the caseload for staff.

“Unless you’ve done the job, you just can’t fathom the emotional rollercoaster that case workers go through,” Gaffney told legislators.

The group recommends a staff size of 31 case workers. Currently, 28 are budgeted for, but only 22 are employed.

“What we need to do is get the positions full and then we need to retain them,” Gaffney said. “How do we do that, an incentive to get people through the door? I know some counties have done it; I don’t know if that would work.”

The consultant says Jefferson County case workers’ salaries are among the best in the area.

Lawmakers asked Gaffney, if it is not a salary issue, why is it a struggle to retain case workers?

“I don’t know if money is the answer,” Gaffney said. I think if we were full-staffed, and staff had the ability and the time to do the job that they want to do, then they will stay.”

Gaffney says the department is actively working on the recommendations it can address, but there are some which will require action by the county.

Other recommendations included county-provided vehicles and cell phones and improving mileage reimbursements.

Lawmakers are reviewing the report to determine how to move forward.