Connelly Will Head Office Of Human Services in St. Mary's

County Seeks Members For Human Services Council To Help Set Agenda

By Guy Leonard, County Times

HOLLYWOOD, Md. (May 22, 2008)—The St. Mary’s County Board of County Commissioners have selected their choice to head the newly formed Off ice of Human Services, the director of the Local Management Board Bennett Connelly.

Connelly’s new job, which starts June 2, will entail coordinating the more than 20 human services organizations in the county that aid the elderly, those looking for metal health and drug abuse assistance, affordable housing and others.

Previously those agencies, both public and private, operated more or less independently. Now they will be moved under the auspices of county government.

But Connelly said that his new off ice would work with a council comprised of human service group directors to help guide the county’s new consolidated efforts.

County commissioners voted to approve Connelly as the director by a 4-to-1 vote Tuesday, with Commissioner Lawrence D. Jarboe (R-Golden Beach) as the sole opposing vote.

Jarboe opposed the formation of the office since he believed it would increase the size of government and not consolidate it.

Both he and Commissioner Kenneth R. Dement (R-Tall Timbers) voted against the establishment of the council.

“This office isn’t coming up with its own work plan,” Connelly told The County Times. “We’ll be looking to the HSC for direction and priority setting.”

The council will consist of 18 members, some of whom have already been determined.

Those include the director of the Department of Social Services, the health officer of the Health Department, the executive director of the Housing Authority, the directors of the Department of Aging, Department of Juvenile Services, one representative from the public schools system and one representative from St. Mary’s Hospital.

These would be ex-officio members, according to the resolution passed by the commissioners Tuesday. The other seats which would include consumers or representatives of consumers of human services as well as representatives from four non-profit agencies, one from the business community and one from a faith-based organization.

The county is currently looking for applicants for the as yet undetermined seats on the board.

Commissioner Thomas A. Mattingly (D-Leonardtown) said that the council had probably reached its manageable size already.

“They’ve got a lot to work on in a short time,” Mattingly said Tuesday. “It’s going to be a challenge with 18 people, with 25 or 30 it would be dysfunctional.”

Larry Harvey, director of the county’s Marcey House, which deals with drug and alcohol abuse rehabilitation, said that the council members, whoever they are, should represent a broad spectrum of services to the community.

“Everybody should be represented fairly,” said Harvey, who sits on the transition team for the new office. “It should represent the full needs of the community.”

Connelly said that while many of the groups that receive county funding will now be operating under his office’s direction, one will not.

The Mental Health Authority, which served as the county’s core service agency in helping direct people to services for mental illness is being replaced by Connelly’s office.

One of the main focuses of the new office will be to hire staff, possibly from the Mental Health Authority if they choose to compete for positions to ensure clients can still come to the new office for help.

“We don’t want any disruption of services,” Connelly said. His office will officially begin operations July 1. A Mental Health Coordinator position has already been filled, he said.

Over the summer the Local Management Board and the Division of Community Services, will be folded into the new office Connelly said, but will stay as they are.

“They still stay as operating entities,” Connelly said of the agencies that will undergo the transition. “We’re trying to coordinate an integration of services, this is about how we create a more seamless [human services] agency so [residents] don’t have to shop around.

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