Oneida County Social Services…Inhumane?
March 25th 2011 · 0 Comments
by David Michael
Currently, there is a state litigation pending in the form of a U.S. District Court lawsuit filed in regards to the egregious length of time the Oneida County Department of Social Services takes to determine the eligibility of applications for services.
It is, and has been, a very frustrating process. [The lawsuit] also alleges that the County has a quota system when reviewing applications, and that the current system (where people voluntarily wait outside of the County Office Building before it opens) is inhumane.
To add insult to injury, non-speaking immigrants, refugees, the mentally ill, newly released prisoners, and those in need of emergency services have been asked to wait, to take another number, and to come back for another appointment- just to hand in paperwork at the window, or if they have left a box unchecked on the application.
Futhermore, it has been the Department of Social Services unofficial policy to discourage applicants petitioning for any form of Public Assistance, and this seems to stem from what I will call a “ten-person quota.”
The problem has been that if you are not one of the first ten people in line, for that day, then you usually have to wait for hours, often upon end, then come back three or more other times simply to get your paper stamped to say you were here. It is after this that they set you up with an appointment.
I know this first hand, because, when I was on Worker’s Compensation for several weeks due to frostbite on January 24th. I needed help and could not believe what I witnessed.
I saw an elderly lady dragged out, arm-to-arm by security. I arrived at 9:30 a.m., and finished by approximately 2:30 p.m., just to hand in a landlord statement at the window. I had arrived at 6 a.m. so that I could be among the first ten applicants. I was third, but took the seventh spot so a lady would not be late for work.
A suggestion to solve this problem would be to at least open the outer lobby doors, so that seniors and children wouldn’t have to wait outside, in inclement weather. If you happen to be mentally ill, handicapped, or if English isn’t your first language, some form of assistant or liaison could, and should be provided.
This happens to be an election year, and if we have to elect a whole new field of officials who have the best interest of the people at heart, then it would probably eliminate much wasted time and amounts of confusion at the Department of Social Services. If State-paid workers made it a priority to assist and process in as many applications as possibly on any given day, the whole process could be a lot smoother and lessen the work load.
I spoke with Samuel Young, Director of Advocacy for Legal Services and his staff several times recently, about how I would like to be a surprise witness for the March 7th District Lawsuit, which I believe I initiated from what I observed.
Surprisingly enough, Attorney Young said that the outcome might have to be settled behind closed doors due to the fact that the Legal Aid Advocacy Services gets its funding from County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr.
After the March 7th outcome, Young’s staff now tells me that he will contact me with this information.
I have always felt that this specific issue should never be settled “behind closed doors,” and that each and every one involved (as well as all the taxpayers of Oneida County) should both be informed as to the outcome, but also that a favorable solution should be suggested and implemented.
In this election year, our elected officials must be held accountable for their actions for the best interest of our citizens and the greater good.
By Mark Ziobro