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Resolution to update Joint Human Services Agreement heads to Oneida County Board

Katie Thoresen

Since 1984, Oneida, Vilas, and Forest Counties have agreed to operate their human services center together.

However, the terms of that agreement haven’t been updated in almost forty years.

Last month, the Oneida County Department of Joint Social Services and Public Safety Committee passed a resolution to rewrite the Joint County Human Services Agreement.

Mary Rideout, Director of Oneida County Department of Social Services, wants to stress first and foremost that she doesn’t want to cut services with a new agreement.

She wants to expand them.

“It's a facility created by the three counties [and it] really needs to work for the three counties. And really, the old agreement doesn't work for the three counties anymore,” she said.

Her resolution would gather key players like the Director of Social Services, the sheriff, the Corporation Council from Oneida County, and their counterparts in Forest and Vilas to discuss the terms of a new contract.

By April 30 of 2024, she plans to have a completed new agreement.

“I think this needs to be driven by Oneida, Vilas, and Forest County, with our tribal partners, which is very important, because we have tribal partners in Vilas and Forest County. Bring everybody to the table and say, ‘what will everybody buy into for a new structure or a new agreement?’” she said.

Reflecting on changes that could be made, Rideout said that restructuring could make resources more clearly available.

“I think there's also folks that are maybe falling through the cracks, just because of the way we're structured. We get people that are confused- do I go to social services? Do I go to human services? Depending on what their needs are, sometimes they're in both systems. For a fact, a lot of times they are, and that can be confusing to people,” she explained.

Additionally, a new resolution could clarify questions of fiscal responsibility between the counties.

“I would really like to see more services directly provided in Vilas and in Forest County that are behavioral health services. I think they seem less readily available in Forest and Vilas. And so I'd really like to see a structure that would allow for those services to get to all areas of the Tri County,” said Rideout.

She also discussed integrating services better on a county-level.

“The Human Service Center is a function of the county, but they don't really feel part of the county. And I think that's a problem too, where, you know, we all work together as county departments,” she said.

The Oneida County Board is expected to vote on the resolution in their September meeting.

If passed, Rideout would expect to present a new resolution to the County Board by April 2024.

Hannah Davis-Reid is a WXPR Reporter.
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