Praises and concerns about communication, collaboration, support systems and funding were discussed during the Wyoming Department of Public Health’s community listening session Thursday afternoon at the Albany County Public Library.
The session was well attended, with a variety of representatives across sectors and demographics, from public health to social services, governmental agencies to nonprofits.
The WDH’s new director, Mike Ceballos, said during his introduction the goal of the event was to get feedback from the experts in the field to see what’s working well — and what’s not working at all.
“For me to do my job, … I have to understand the work that you’re doing,” he said. “You’re the ones that are there, you’re the ones we need to listen to.”
Ceballos also noted while he was looking for ideas and feedback, he wanted to be more creative than requesting more funding. The WDH already consists of over 50% of the state’s general fund, he said, and asking for more funding would be a hard sell to the Legislature.
Many of the comments were quick to point out their requests weren’t for more funding, but instead for better access and more sustainable, long-term funding options for existing programs, like the gatekeeper suicide prevention program that will run out of funding at the end of June.
“That’s a problem that I have with a lot of things, is let’s say I find something that’s working, it’s great results, great outcomes — there’s no sustainability plan,” said Albany County Attorney Peggy Trent. “We live on soft money and not given the ability to dream to try new programs to try and keep moving forward.”
Collaboration and communication were some of the attendee’s primary concerns, asking if departments even beyond the WDH, like the Department of Family Services and the Department of Corrections, could better work together since many of the residents needing their resources often overlap into multiple jurisdictions, with substance abuse as an example.
Title 25 and Title 7 related issues, which involve mental health, also could use more inter-departmental collaboration, Trent said. Having to take people in need of evaluation for a case back and forth to the state hospital in Evanston is costly and time consuming, she explained, with many having to stay in the Albany County Detention Center as they wait for evaluations.
Along with improved communication between community members and the WDH, people also noted need for improvement even among the departments within the WDH. Jaime Stine, executive director of the Developmental Preschool, said she’s experienced conflicting requests from different departments within the WDH telling her to both increase and decrease services, while other times the WDH has tried to implement new programs that conflict with current practices.
“That was a really big frustration for us, that there’s all this money and it’s being used for this whole new system without looking at how it should’ve integrated what was already there in the first place,” Stine said during the meeting. “It was an afterthought that we were brought in.”
While communication issues were the subject of the brunt of the public’s criticisms, many also highlighted how great certain departments were to work with. The Department on Aging and the Behavioral Health Division were both highlighted as particularly effective and collaborative.
Stine also said she appreciated the WDH’s willingness to support her nonprofit by answering questions about certain requirements and policies.
The WDH is also accepting feedback electronically on its website, healthcommunityvisits.wyo.gov, for those who are unable to attend its community meetings across the state.