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Department of Human Services

Jonna Bennet works Friday in the new call center Friday at the Department of Human Services in North Bend. The call center is part of the department's 50,000 square foot facility in North Bend.

NORTH BEND — After more than a year in its new facility, staff members from the Coos County Department of Human Services says its mission to increase its efficiency and interconnection between its programs is still among its top priorities.

Last February, the local DHS offices combined its child welfare, self-sufficiency and vocational rehabilitation services under one roof. The 50,000 square foot facility, which is located on 1431 Airport Lane, offers Coos County residents all three services in one location.

Last February, the local DHS offices combined its child welfare, self-sufficiency and vocational rehabilitation services into a 50,000 square …

“We’re working to really flatten out these program silos to better align the programs,” said Michael Marchant, the DHS district manager for Coos and Curry counties. “We want to try to capture some synergy between them and that was really challenging to do with the programs located at various locations throughout town.”

In order to meet the needs of the community, the facility was constructed to handle additional staff and meeting space for outside community partners to utilize. DHS also has offices across the street, on 2675 Colorado Ave., which houses its aging and people with disabilities programs.

According to Marchant, the hope is that working together in one location will allow everyone to better share resources and information as well as increase its community outreach.

“We are trying to have a more dynamic outreach presence,” he said. “One of the nice things about today versus when I first started working on the South Coast almost 35 years ago is that we are much more mobile.”

With the advancement of wireless technology, Marchant said its services have been able to reach more people throughout the area and statewide. In addition to its new offices, the facility also features a call center that employs 13 additional staff members.

Whitney Warr, the self-sufficiency program manager for Coos and Curry counties, said the call center is able to remotely provide DHS eligibility services to folks in Multnomah County. Through a work share program, the facility also has three more staff members who provide services to individuals in Linn and Benton counties.

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An employye works in the new call center Friday at the Department of Human Services in North Bend. The call center is part of the department's…

“We’ve been able to pull positions into our more rural community that would otherwise be up in the metro areas,” said Warr. “Providing those jobs here has a greater economic impact than it would have in a bigger city.”

In both Coos and Curry counties, the SNAP program currently serves over 19,000 people while the temporary assistance program serves over 1,600 people. In addition, the aging and people with disabilities program serves about 1,200 individuals who each receive long-term care.

“Our operations are really a reflection of what the needs are in the community,” said Marchant.

In order to meet those needs, DHS has worked on increasing its staff statewide. In Coos and Curry counties, about 275 people are actively employed with DHS. According the Marchant, the hiring initiative came down from Gov. Kate Brown who allocated funds for the additional positions in her approved budget.

A special emphasis has been put on securing more caseworkers, certifiers and other staff positions for its child welfare, protective services. In an effort to build additional support and help facilitate the needs of foster parents and children in care, DHS added a new position, the Foster Care Champion.

“We were fortunate to have recently on-boarded an outstanding former foster parent into this position,” said Marchant in an email.

At any given time, about 300 children are in foster care in Coos and Curry counties. As more positions begin to be filled and services strengthen statewide, Marchant said so does DHS’s continued commitment to serve those in need.

“We are continuing our efforts to work more closely with our community partners and to listen to the people that we’re serving,” he said.

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Reporter Amanda Linares can be reached at 541-266-2039 or by email at amanda.linares@theworldlink.com.

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