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Saturday, December 31, 2005

Felten defends changes at HHS

"Changes hadto happen," Health and Human Services Committee Chairwoman Betty Felten said."Change is not pretty. People do not like it, but it was long overdue there."

Felten was responding to a letter submitted to The Week by Supervisor Joe Guido (below) calling for HHS Director Dani Maculan's resignation.

"Is (Maculan) a perfect person? None of us are perfect. We are all human beings,and we all have faults. I don't think that is a reason to throw out the system," Felten said in a story in the Janesville Gazette.

Felten, who said she also supports Maculan's plans, feels citizens will receive betterservice once the changes are fully implemented.

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Friday, December 30, 2005

Bretl responds to Guido letter

After reading Supervisor Joseph Guido's letter (next item below), Walworth County Administrator David Bretl told reporter Mike Heine that he continues to support Health and Human Services Director Dani Maculan.

In an interview Friday, Bretl added, "The plan was laid out and explained and voted on in the context of the 2006 budget. Certainly the budget was adopted overwhelmingly when it presented a limited tax increase."


-Dan Plutchak, editor

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By Joseph Guido: Crisis in human services

The following letter was submitted by Walworth County Board Supervisor Joseph C. Guido.

In my opinion

In March 2005, following the retirement of Director Mike Kohl, and upon the recommendation of County Administrator David Bretl, the county board approved the hiring of Dani Maculan as the new director of health and human services in Walworth County.

The new director offered a plan to reorganize the department and to cut $2.2 million from the budget. Why such a massive reduction in critical services?

What has actually taken place is the resignation or retirement of 13 qualified full-time employees, many of whom were department heads, and the elimination of 16 other positions, most of whom enjoyed many years of direct service to residents of the county.

Why are so many employees resigning? Because-as many past and present employees have reported-of Ms. Maculan's intimidation and threats, abusive language, and erratic behavior, and that she has imposed a virtual gag order on the present employees so that anyone making inquiries, questioning or opposing changes is said to be "sabotaging the plan."

Following the resignation of our three county psychiatrists, the most recent catastrophe has been the need to resort to a "rent a doctor" service, which resulted in a psychiatrist with sexual misconduct in his past seeing patients in our county. Why didn't Ms. Maculan check into what is public knowledge about this doctor?

What human tragedies are waiting to happen when there is no doctor to prescribe the necessary medication or treatment for our psychiatric patients?

Quality treatment, care, concern, and compassion have been the cornerstone of Walworth County's Health and Human Services. We must halt the disastrous dismantling of this department! Who has the responsibility to act? Your elected representatives, the Walworth County Board!

It appears many members are turning a deaf ear to the barrage of phone calls, letters and newspaper articles. In spite of this outcry, Administrator David Bretl, supervisor and county board chairwoman Ann Lohrmann, LaGrange and Whitewater and supervisor Betty Felten, Elkhorn, chair of the health and human services committee, are continuing to staunchly support the actions of Ms. Maculan.

In the name of all our clients, their families and our loyal employees, my recommendation to all our elected Walworth County Supervisors and to David Bretl is:

o 1. Call for the immediate resignation of Ms. Maculan. If she will not:
o 2. Termination of Ms. Maculan's contract by County Administrator David Bretl. If he will not:
o 3. Action by the county board members to call a special order of business meeting to terminate Ms. Maculan's contract.

Your elected representatives, the county board supervisors welcome you to voice your concern at the next board meeting, at 6 p.m. on Jan. 10, 2006 at the Government Center (the old county courthouse) in downtown Elkhorn. There will be a public comment period shortly after 6 p.m. but you must register to speak. You are allowed three minutes to voice your concerns. (No questions will receive a response).


COME ONE, COME ALL!
Joseph C. Guido
Walworth County Board of Supervisors
District 17, Delavan


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Friday, December 23, 2005

Covering the Health and Human Services controversy

It's not uncommon to receive a complaint about how county government is working, In most cases, however, the issue never has a wide enough impact to elevate it to news stories.

The current controversy involving changes at the Walworth County Health and Human Services Department is the exception.

Reporter Mike Heine has been covering the dispute over the last few weeks with stories on the changes, resignations and the story in this week's Week on the psychiatrist who slipped through the screening cracks.

What's yet to be determined is if the changes are an effective response to taxpayer demands for a fiscally responsible goverment, or if the plan is faulty and can't deliver as promised.

The jury on that remains out.

In the mean time, we received the following letter after our original story ran from the former program manager of Mental Health and AODA.

Dan Plutchak, editor, The Week

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By Spellman: A call for public hearings

Dear Walworth County Board Members:

We are asking you to hold a special investigative hearing into the drastic and dramatic changes being made in your name and in the name of the citizens of Walworth County.

In the name of saving 10 cents per $1,000 or $20 on a house of $200,000 or $100 on a $1 million dollar farm or vacation home, Walworth County will be decimating the services to the mentally ill and needy citizens of the county.

These fellow citizens in large part did nothing particular to have the conditions they have, but their need is real and the cost effectiveness of the current system has been proven.

It may be that costs to taxpayers will dramatically rise as clients will need increasing hospital admissions as our current community based program loses its ability to care for clients and patients in the community.

Walworth County has for its history a fine and proud tradition of caring for those who live in its borders, of caring for those who were less fortunate than many of the rest of the citizens of the county.

In the name of the 10 pennies per thousand dollars of assessed valuation, a system of care and nurturing and keeping people safe is being destroyed.

Your immediate attention is required if this travesty is to be reversed.

The effects of Dani Maculan's misguided program changes are as follows:

1) The loss of several key program staff who have resigned or taken early retirements because of professional and personal differences with Ms. Maculan.

2) The loss of program expertise and personal relationships with clients and patients is incalculable.

3) The loss of a strong crisis intervention service to meet not only the ongoing needs of its existing clients but also the needs of suicidal and homicidal personals who are referred by law enforcement or by families.

4) The loss of adequate psychiatry services and the diminished appreciation of the need for adequate and timely follow-up by psychiatrists. Many patients who use Human Services have profound and serious mental disorders that need frequent and thorough follow-up.

5) The system suggested by Ms. Maculan underestimates the needs of many of the clients who seek the services of the Human Services department.

Public hearings inviting the staff who are leaving and patients and families willing to testify could give more information on the difficulities of the proposed cuts and changes proposed by Ms. Maculan, as well as provide information on the budget figures offered to date and the potential huge costs of increased hospitalizations if the proposed system is implemented.

The decision is in your hands. Please, in the name of all that is good, hold an investigative hearing, and when you verify that the above cuts are in fact the result of misguuided application of penny-wise and pound-foolish thinking, please restore these programs and undo as much of the damage as possible.

Time is of the essence.

We are the parents of a now young adult who is cognitively disabled and has cystic fibrosis. She is number 100-plus on the list of supportive services.

If these cuts to the needy are passed, what will happen next year to the services for the 100-plus families on the waiting list, much less those already receiving such services?

Tom and Dona Spellman, Lake Geneva

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By Susan B: O'Connell: What prompted my resignation

I am writing this as a follow-up to Mike Heine's article (The Week, Dec. 4) about the restructuring going on at Walworth County Health and Human Services.

I was interviewed for the article and would like to clarify my position on a couple of issues.

I was not interviewed by Ms. Maculan, but she approved my hiring.

My strengths were a 20 year history of providing mental health services in the private sector, knowledge of mental health, alcohol and drug services and treatment, awareness of the community and state standards for outpatient treatment and the continuum of care.

Additionally, I have a deep commitment to providing quality mental health and substance abuse care whether I am working in the private sector or for a public agency.

When I came on board, Ms. Maculan indicated to me that she wanted to make the outpatient department the hub of the agency and provide quicker, more goal oriented therapy services to the community.

She indicated that she wanted me to do research into what other counties were doing and to develop plans for how we could bring some of the services in house and eliminate as much contracting.

It began as an orderly plan. I not only researched what was going on in other counties, but I studied the current system in place in Walworth County.

I looked at what the Crisis Intervention department did, and what Court Services did and how they interfaced with the outpatient department.

I began making changes in how the departments interacted to provide for more efficiency and speed of initiating services.

As I began reporting back to her on what I was discovering and what I thought we could realistically do, it became obvious that even though she stated that she wanted ideas, she had one model that she was willing to consider, apparently a carryover from her days as the director in Green County.

Despite the fact that her experience there was a decade old, and in a smaller county, she was clinging to that plan.

Many other counties in Wisconsin of similar size are continuing to contract for services.
No other county of similar size has the kind of delivery system Ms. Maculan plans on putting into place.

Contracts have already been cut and those services will not be replicated by the outpatient department.

They are simply gone.

Many of them provided quick responses to crisis situations.

Ms. Maculan envisions a system where clinical social workers doing what four different departments have been doing, in addition to seeing clients.

No other county does that because it isn't efficient or cost-effective.

Before we even had a chance to formulate any of the ideas into a cohesive plan, Ms. Maculan called a meeting in August at which it was decided which positions, whole departments and functions would be eliminated.

No plan was in place for how these functions would be carried out as we cut positions and decided on new ones.

I was horrified because I knew what levels of knowledge and expertise we were cutting out.

I expressed my reservations but was told that this had to be done and we'd figure out the details later.

Details? All I could think of was the people's lives that might be at stake.

Health and Human Services provide for the people in our community who cannot adequately care for themselves and their families due to mental illness, drug or alcohol addiction, being uninsured or underinsured, or poverty.

They typically don't lobby for themselves, or complain when services are no longer available.

So we may not hear from many of them directly, but we can be assured that there will be costly repercussions to this re-structuring.

Walworth County had a team of three superb psychiatrists who were well respected in the community.

They provided people without access to private services quality psychiatric care and medical collaboration with their medical providers.

Mental health treatment relies much more heavily on medication these days, requiring skilled psychiatrists.

All three have resigned and will be gone by the end of the year, leaving 700 people without a psychiatrist.

Finding replacements could cost significantly more than the current doctors were costing.

Ms. Maculan says she gave managers three chances to reduce or keep a zero increase budget.

I was there for all but one week of five months and I was never given one chance.

Every cost saving measure I suggested was ignored or rejected.

My experience was that if I agreed with her, all was well.

If I challenged her on anything, I was told I was wrong.

When Ms. Maculan was holding departmental meetings to tell people whose jobs would be cut, I asked how training would be scheduled so that the clinical social workers in the outpatient department who would be doing Intake, Crisis Intervention and Court Services after the first of the year could learn all of their new responsibilities.

With a hostile look and a disparaging tone she told me that social workers knew all those skills from what they learned in graduate school.

I have a Master's Degree in Social Work and knew that was not the case.

The position of Program Manager of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services has been split into three different positions, two of which are being offered at a range which ends at $10 per hour more than I was being paid.

Initially, Ms. Maculan stated publicly that I would be able to decide which of the two new positions I wished to stay in.

Without discussing it further with me, she divided the job into three positions and presented the new organizational chart to the Health and Human Services Board with me being given a demotion to Supervisor of Alcohol and Drug Services.

Instead of supervising 12 people and four areas, I would have three people to supervise.

That decision, and the fear of being associated with the chaos which I believed was the only possible outcome for this out of control management style, I resigned, giving four weeks notice.

Ms. Maculan chose to ask me to leave four days after I gave her my letter of resignation.

Ms. Maculan states that no changes that affect clients will go into effect until April.

Initially, the staff were told that all changes would go into effect on January 3.

I can only hope that she is beginning to realize what many staff tried to tell her for the past few months, that what she was suggesting was not possible to do adequately in that short a time frame.

The Health and Human Services Board members, the County Board and Mr. Bretl should be much more involved in holding Ms. Maculan accountable for the numbers she is providing and staff she is losing due to this restructuring.

She is providing numbers to justify past inefficiency that are not accurate.

When challenged on some of those, she simply ignores the new data and continues to use her own figures.

Additionally, she is projecting revenue increases due to her changes that cannot possibly be true.

Mr. Bretl and the County Board are not getting accurate information from her and since staff are literally threatened when they suggest something different, they will not get information from staff without assurances of protection.

To call this resistance to change is to trivialize intelligent, respected staffers who are appalled by the haphazard approach to dismanteling a system that needed some fine tuning, but not gutting.

So much has already been destroyed that turning back to what was is not an option.

As a Walworth County citizen, I am saddened by what has happened in this past year and what will happen.

Short-term cost savings will probably lead to increased budget overages in many areas, including other county departments.

The vast majority of the Health and Human Services staff are dedicated folks who want to work there to provide valuable services to people in need.

The vast majority have been outraged and frightened by the speed of the changes and the refusal to listen to input, frequent public references to the "poor quality" of services that have been provided before her arrival, quoting of incorrect information even after she had been corrected, and general lack of respect for current staff.

Many have tried to reach County Board members, the Health and Human Services Board members, Mr. Bretl, and Human Resources to express their concerns.

It would appear that all those efforts have fallen on largely deaf ears.

Ms. Maculan marches on and more people are asked to leave before their agreed upon departure dates, causing more fear, distrust, and lowering of morale.

The word is out in the professional community about how human service workers are being treated at Walworth County.

The new job descriptions don't match any social worker I have ever met.

I think we will be lucky to get any qualified applicants who are willing to put their reputations on the line doing the variety of tasks that are being required and having the knowledge of the areas which are required.

By the end of December, all Doctors will be gone, the Court Services until will be dismantled with no new program in place, and the daytime Intervention services will be added to the clinical social workers jobs.

All this will be done with no training of the staff who will be taking over these tasks, and the ones who could have trained them have resigned or retired and been asked to leave early.

Nearly 700 people dependent on Walworth County psychiatrists will have no psychiatric care.

Imagine the potential chaos.

Thank you for the opportunity to share my concerns.

Susan B. O'Connell, MSW, LCSW, CADC is the former program manager of Mental Health and AODA Services Walworth County Department of Health and Human Services

Copies of this letter were also forwarded by Ms. O'Connell to the Walworth County Board and the Health and Human Services Board


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Friday, December 16, 2005

We’re looking for spectacular lights

In our Thursday, Dec. 22 edition of The Week, we’re planning our annual tribute to outdoor holiday lights.

If you’d like to nominate your home, or a friend’s or neighbor’s, send us an e-mail and we’ll add it to our list of homes to check out. If you have a photo and would like to send it along to help convince us, that would be great too.

http://www.blogger.com/theweek@theweekextra.com



Post continued HERE

Last call for Christmas and holiday photos

Family holiday photos have begun to trickle in from readers.

For our Christmas Day edition, we’re planning a Walworth County Holiday Photo Album. We’re asking readers to submit a favorite holiday family photo for publication.

Older photos are better, or at least more entertaining to look at.

Photos can be dropped off, mailed or e-mailed. We’ll make sure all the prints are returned. Include the names of people in the photo, along with when and where it was taken.

We’ll print the ones we receive in the next few weeks, and perhaps this will be the start of a whole new holiday tradition.

http://www.blogger.com/theweek@theweekextra.com

Post continued HERE

County loses an advocate for the arts

Walworth County lost a strong advocate for the arts when Stu Rau passed away Dec. 2 at the age of 78.

Rau, of Williams Bay, was one of those individuals who quietly makes tremendous contributions to the quality of life in Walworth County.

He was the long-time president of the Walworth County Arts Council, giving his energy to a group that has devoted itself to the support of the arts in Walworth County.

Among their programs are the annual young writers contest which awards scholarships to students attending Walworth County High Schools. The group also sponsors a program where area artists go into the local schools and talk about their work.

The Arts Council also has an active schedule of trips to the many art institutions in this part of the county.

Rau was always quick to feed The Week a story idea of the type we enjoy the most—stories of our friends and neighbors who do fascinating things without much fanfare.

His leadership will be missed as much by those who knew him as those who didn’t.



Post continued HERE

Friday, December 02, 2005

Send us your holiday photos

Every family has holiday traditions.

We'd like your help in learning about some of your family traditions. Coming up in the next few weeks will be our annual outdoor holiday light edition as well as a special family holiday photo album.

Traditions come in two varieties-those that are carefully nurtured and handed down, generation to generation, and those you'd be glad to be without.

Of the latter variety, I know the holidays are upon us because somewhere in the house, the plumbing will go out.
It's a tradition handed down from my parents. If we ever had plumbing problems when I was growing up, it was always around the holidays.
My father could wield a plunger as deftly as a turkey carving knife.

This is one tradition which has followed me in the years since leaving that home.

This year it was the dishwasher. The drain pump has only one job, as far as I can tell, and it wasn't doing it.

I'm not exactly sure what the problem was because the plumber only mumbled the diagnosis. I suspect he feared I would figure out that dishwasher science and rocket science are two quite different things.

All this the day before Thanksgiving, no less. I hate doing dishes anyway, but the prospect of loads of hand-washed Thanksgiving dinner dishes put a chill into the holiday.

I should have known it was coming, but for some reason I always hope this year the curse (I mean tradition) will be broken.
The traditions that we'd like to hear about and share with our other readers are more pleasant in nature, and some of my family's favorites as well- Christmas lights and holiday photos.

My parents favored the big colored bulbs on the house where I grew up. You don't see them much anymore. I suppose no one can afford to keep them on in this era of high energy costs.

As for photographs, my collection of Christmas pictures go back to early 1957, when my father got his first camera and began shooting slides of every family event.

I've carried on the tradition in the years since leaving home.

Much to my children's dismay, I still make them wait for a photo of them coming down the stairs on Christmas morning, just as my parents made us wait years ago.

Do you have your lights up and holiday photos unpacked? We'd like to hear from you.

In our Thursday, Dec. 22 edition of The Week, we're planning our annual tribute to outdoor holiday lights. If you'd like to nominate your home, or a friend or neighbors, send us an e-mail and we'll add it to our list of homes to check out. If you have a photo and would like to send it along to help convince us, that would be great too.

For our Christmas day edition, we're planning a Walworth County Holiday Photo album. We're asking readers to submit a favorite holiday family photo for publication.

Older photos are better, or at least more entertaining to look at.

Photos can be dropped off, mailed or e-mailed. We'll make sure all the prints are returned. Include the names of people in the photo, along with when and where it was taken.

We'll print the ones we receive in the next few weeks, and perhaps this will be the start of a whole new holiday tradition.

Post continued HERE

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