There’s a new push for a full time medical director to oversee the medical needs of children in the care of both the Georgia’s Department of Human Services (DHS) and Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS).
Commissioner Clyde Reese III and DFCS Director Rachelle Carnesale, both new to their posts, announced their support for the position during a recent House Children & Youth Committee meeting at the state capitol.
“We believe that the appointment of a full time medical director would be beneficial to the department and the children we serve,” Reese said, during the hour-long meeting that covered updates on the status of foster care and child support collection services for the state’s children. The Medicaid and Medicare programs were also discussed. “We think it would be most beneficial to work with someone who does that every day.”
Carnesale echoed a similar sentiment.
“A lot of these kids [cared for by DFCS] have medical issues and we want to ensure that they receive the best care possible,” she said. “We do think that if the clinical reviews now being conducted by non-medical personnel could be done by a medical director, it would be especially valuable in the lives of the children in our care.”
Neither Reese nor Carnesale detailed a potential timeline for creating the position. However, DFCS Deputy Commissioner Sharon King, noted that the agency expects the position to be “cost neutral,” so as not to be impacted by the agency’s recent budget cuts.
“The idea is currently in development, but it’s still early in the process,” said King, a healthcare attorney. “We’ve only been in our positions for about 32 days now, but this is definitely a priority of ours while the legislative session is in.”
In his 30-minute presentation, Reese also told committee members that the previous administration’s decision to prioritize diverting more children away from foster care and into the care of their birth families has resulted in a 50 percent reduction in the number of children in the foster system. The “drive for numbers,” in some cases, he said, may have put some children at risk. He assured legislators that child safety, will be the top priority in his administration.
“Some children are not well served staying at home with their natural family,” he said. “We should only do so when children can be reunited with their families safely. We also intend to do a better assessment of whether some cases are abuse or just families in need of support. We’re going to do better job of screening.”
Reese also shared with committee members that:
- The top priority for DHS is protecting the health and safety of children and supporting families in their care.
- DHS staffers have not received a cost of living adjustment for more than three years, which has brought down morale.
- DHS workers take two furloughs days per month, a practice he hopes to end soon.
- The department’s Office of Child Support has continued to improve its process for assisting custodial parents in receiving financial support for childcare.