Supporting the Needs of Elbert County Residents
When Jerri Spear prepared to start her next career as Director of Human Services for Elbert County in 2012, the County Commissioners requested that she oversee the County’s Health Department as well.
Spear found herself in one of the few counties in Colorado to combine both departments into one. Spear has worked in human services for her entire career and started as a Colorado county human services director 21 years ago.
Human Services covers areas such as Child Support and Child and Adult Protection in addition to Cash/Food/Medical Assistance programs. Although there are similarities in the administration of the two departments, one of Spear’s biggest adjustments was learning how to navigate a health department’s funding and operations.
“County human services departments act as agents of the state,” with over 80% funding provided by Federal and State departments, said Spear. “We are statutorily required to run programs set by the state, which leaves the mystery out of the role.” However, Spear does have control over the dollars provided to fit the needs of the county, as long as it falls within state requirements.
Health departments, on the other hand, receive more state grants, and there are many opportunities towards which we can apply the funding. In some ways “there’s more flexibility to meet the needs of the community,” Spear said.
That means the Department has to determine what those needs are and understanding the demographic make-up of the county.
Spear’s main goal is to help residents in need, and she is always searching for the best way to serve them. For example, her department is in a five-year planning process for the health department to determine what areas they will focus on. Meetings are still taking place and staff continues to collect information.