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Helping people in need is DHR’s mission

Staff Writer

Helping those in need is the main mission of the Department of Human Resources.

Paul Butler, acting director of DHR for Pike and Crenshaw counties, said taking on that mission has meant changes for the department in recent years.

He said the departments serves "a great number of individuals" in Pike County and estimates between 5 and 10 percent of the population ­ excluding those in the child programs ­ gets some sort of assistance.

What was once known as the "welfare" system, has undergone a name change to "Temporary Aid to Needy Families," but offers many of the same services.

However, there have been changes in that aspect of DHR.

Now, recipients can only get welfare support for five years. During that time, they have two years to find a job to help themselves.

"We’re teaching them what they need to know (to get and keep jobs)," Butler told the Troy Rotary Club on Tuesday.

Under the food stamp program, about 2,000 families in Pike County are helped. The department does that with a zero error rate.

"In Pike County, we’re very proud of that," Butler said.

Another means of helping children is through the department’s child support program.

In Pike County, two individuals oversee about 3,000 child support cases and generated $2.3 million, last year. Butler said that puts the county at the state average in collections.

Within the next year, Butler said, the department will begin publishing the "10 most wanted" parents who are delinquent in child support payments.

"They aren’t only deadbeat dads. There are some deadbeat moms, as well," Butler said.

Although offering financial assistance is a large part of what DHR does, that is far from all.

The department also handles child abuse and neglect cases of which they investigate between 12 and 20 each month.

"The more we do…talking to different agencies and individuals, the more people know they can come to us," Butler said of the increase in the number of abuse and neglect cases being reported.

In October 1999, the federal courts, governor and commissioner of the DHR declared Pike County to be "in distress" when it comes to child welfare.

Butler said, now, over 90 percent of cases reported are being investigated within the perimeters set. Those are: high risk cases must be evaluated within 24 hours and other cases must be looked into within five days.

"We continue to make these strides in the department," Butler said.

Considering the "shocking" and "sad" cases DHR workers see, Butler said the department is working hard to help those who need it.