Human Services Merging with K’ima:w Medical Center
By KRISTAN KORNS, Two Rivers Tribune
The Hoopa Valley Tribal Council voted on Thursday, Oct. 11 to eliminate the Director of Human Services position and to place the Division of Human Services under the control of the K’ima:w Medical Center Board.
Millie Grant, the long-time director of Human Services, was given her 30-day notice. She has worked for the Tribe for 28 years.
K’ima:w’s interim Chief Executive Officer, Mary Benedict was asked to come up with a plan for the merger and make recommendations to the Tribal Council within 30 days.
“The first step is to evaluate the programs and see how we can maintain the services they’re already providing,” Benedict said. “We understand how important these services are to the community.”
Tribal Councilmember, Ryan Jackson said there were a number of reasons for the merger.
“The primary reason is to integrate all of the medically-related programs under one roof,” Jackson said. “Medically-related services would benefit from being consolidated and centrally-located.”
Some Human Services programs that aren’t directly related to health may not be moved to K’ima:w and could end up somewhere else.
Benedict said, “We’re supposed to identify which programs should come here and which would be better structured under a different department.”
Some people said they’re worried because the plans are still undecided and uncertain.
Tribal Vice Chairman, Byron Nelson said, “There are several employees at Human Services who are concerned about their employment status.”
Ella Kane, the Child and Family Service coordinator said, “There’s no reorganizational plan in place. We have open family reunification cases, and we’re taking things down off the wall. What does this mean for our clients?”
Child and Family Services is part of Human Services. They take reports on child neglect cases, supervise visitations, arrange parenting and drug and alcohol classes, and arrange family reunifications.
“We have court-ordered cases where children were removed from their parents and placed with relatives,” Kane said. “We can’t just transfer files because of client confidentiality.”
Michelle Krieger, an attorney for the Tribal Court, said the court works with Human Services a lot, especially on child neglect cases.
“There are really specific procedures that have to be followed in these cases,” Krieger said. “If we lose child neglect counselors and substance abuse counselors it’ll be very difficult for the tribe to provide services so the families can reunify.”
Several tribal members and Human Services employees questioned the reasons for the merger at the Tribal Council meeting on Thursday, Oct. 18.
Ollie May Davis said, “I hope this isn’t a vendetta. I hope it’s for the benefit of the tribe as a whole.”
Dawn Blake said, “I’m completely terrified that some of these services will stop working. Even if these falter for a month, that affects people’s lives.”
Tanya Bussel-Linderman said, “Does our salary stay the same? Do we lose all of our acquired sick and vacation days? We’re not being told.”
Benedict said that there are no plans for any staff layoffs.
“I think it will be minimal,” she said. “They’re a totally different program than us.”
K’ima:w is the only Indian health clinic in California accredited through the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO).
“We’re proud to be JCAHO accredited. With Human Services coming on board, we’ll also have to get accredited for behavioral health,” Benedict said.
Clinics with JCAHO accreditation can get Medi-Cal and Medicare reimbursement for their services.
Tribal Councilmember Augie Montgomery said, “Across the country, the majority of tribes that have clinics are merging behavioral health and physical health.”
Tribal Councilmember Hayley Hutt said the 16 employees of Human Services would continue to work at the same job during the integration.
“Everything will be business as usual,” Hutt said. “There will be an opportunity for input, and employees will be a part of that process.”
Jackson said, “The idea is to maintain the status quo for the 30 days while this is being planned.”
Montgomery said, “We’re just trying to have the best health care for the community.”