Benefitting clients and taxpayers alike, the Onslow County Department of Social Services has moved to a new location.
The benefit comes from being in the same building as agencies DSS often partners with as well as being in a newer, nicer building, said DSS Director Heidi Bauer.
“For the clients, the benefits are we’re all in one place,” Bauer said.
One mother certainly agrees. Quiera Hunt stood outside the Onslow County Consolidated Human Services Agency building Friday morning holding her 8-month-old daughter, Ivy, after going to an appointment for WIC, or Woman, Infants, and Children.
Hunt said she started using WIC with her first child and was seen at the old DSS building near the New River Shopping Center. The old building was run down, Hunt said, especially in comparison to the newer location downtown, which she called “refreshing.”
“Everything is way better,” Hunt said, adding, “I like it cause it’s way more convenient.”
Hunt uses the WIC and health department services, but Bauer said there are a lot of different departments now housed under the same roof, which has added advantages. DSS often works alongside other agencies that are now just a short walk away.
For example, she said, if a social worker is speaking with a family in need of benefits, she can go to the departments they need and find out what the family needs to bring in so they have just one trip to make. Pregnant women at the health department can apply for Medicaid in the same building.
“Really, it’s just a lot easier for our clientele,” Bauer said. “They don’t have to go from place to place.”
Staff members are helped as well, like when a family on welfare has a child removed from the home, economic services needs to know there will be a change in their benefits, Bauer said.
For taxpayers, there’s a benefit in less money being spent, Bauer explained, including for drug tests. With some services drug screenings necessary and having the health department in the building made it easier to contract with them to do the screenings instead of an outside agency, resulting in cost savings.
Having everyone in one location means only one reception area, so there are fewer people needed for the front desk. There’s also a cubicle setup to the offices now, Bauer said – work stations in lieu of separate offices. The cubicles have everything built in to them so there’s no need for separate desks and chairs, which she believes will likely lead to money savings due to the lack of equipment replacement.
The state’s interest in the building has been piqued, too. There’s a big training area inside the building and along eastern North Carolina, Bauer said there isn’t really a great place to meet for training exercises and classes.
With state agencies considering having training in Onslow County, Bauer said the county won’t have to pay to send staff members to other areas and should result in more cost-saving opportunities.
But overall, Bauer thinks the new building just makes clients happier.
“They’re being seen in a new building, a bright building, in a building designed to do department of social services work,” Bauer said, adding that this building has a lot more natural light. “I think you just kind of feel better when you’re being served in a better building.”
The Consolidated Human Services building is located in downtown Jacksonville at 612 College St. and can be reached by phone at 910-455-4145. More information on each department can be found at OnslowCountyNC.gov.
Reporter Amanda Thames can be reached at 910-219-8467 or Amanda.Thames@JDNews.com