Sorrell reports on JFS workforce, other issues

By Kelsey Kimbler -

PREBLE COUNTY — According to Job and Family Services Director Becky Sorrell, Preble County individuals may not be making enough money to feed their families, despite indications they are employed.

She shared her thoughts during the Preble County Commissioners’ meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 26. Sorrell explained, she tried to prepare the annual report, but numbers did not “match up” and she wanted to verify. She agreed to email the document and discuss during the next meeting. However, she noticed something interesting while preparing the report.

“When doing the annual report, I found it interesting how we had reduced the number of cash recipients — we never have many cash recipients — and we reduced the number of Medicaid recipients, however, we increased the number of food assistance recipients. I thought that was interesting, because we hear from food banks also that they are more active than they have been in the past,” she said.

“Our unemployment rate is going down, our number of people on programs that provide people with cash and medical is going down, so folks are getting jobs — but they still aren’t making enough to feed their families — so they’re either relying on food assistance or they’re relying heavily on food banks. I thought that was an interesting fact about our county.”

Sorrell also reported on a recent trip to Brigid’s Path, which Commissioner Chris Day also attended. Brigid’s Path is a newborn recovery center with the mission to improve the health of newborn babies and mother impacted by addiction.

“They also help drug addicted babies and mothers, because they were on some type of treatment for cancer [and the baby became addicted],” Day said.

“The facility is absolutely beautiful — I was amazed by it,” Sorrell said.

Day added, it was an annoyance for him that hospitals don’t recommend this facility to Job and Family Services, Children Services. Sorrell explained, due to new regulations, babies can only stay 14 days if they are in the custody of Children Services, as the state considers it a residential facility or group home.

She will be doing more research on those regulations in the future, to see if this facility could be of use to Preble County.

Sorrell also talked about the workforce crisis the State of Ohio is experiencing in Children Services.

She explained, there are nine caseworker slots at the agency with only seven filled. She gave several other examples of the way her agency is understaffed, including training she is having to take to fill gaps.

Sorrell had the opportunity to speak with the State of Ohio about the crisis. She stated, the conversation was a good start and it was nice to “let them know where we’re at.”

“It is a workforce crisis. It is not because I’m not trying to hire or you all aren’t letting me hire, I cannot recruit someone. I already have two staff who don’t have Bachelor’s Degrees and they have to have them within five years — I don’t know how they’re going to go to school and do this work,” she added. “It’s not a local problem.”

She noted, at this point it is not a wage issue, as increasing pay would still leave her workers overworked and overwhelmed. Her staff also doesn’t need training — they need help through additional staff with the regulations and requirements the way they are now.

By Kelsey Kimbler