Innovation at the County of Humboldt was again recognized when it was named in September as a recipient of the California State Association of Counties’ (CSAC) Challenge and Merit Awards. Honoring the most creative and cost-effective programs developed by California’s 58 counties, the awards were given to the County for its interactive, multi-site community budget meetings held in March, and its Mobile Outreach program.
Throughout California, 41 programs from 18 counties are being recognized for Innovation, Challenge and Merit Awards. In the 50,001 to 200,000 resident category, the County’s budget meetings won the Challenge Award, and Mobile Outreach won the Merit Award. Humboldt also received an “Outstanding Achievement in Local Government Innovation” award in May from the Alliance for Innovation for the meetings.
“The CSAC Challenge Awards program exemplifies the very best of county government,” said CSAC Executive Director Matt Cate. “The programs highlighted each year demonstrate how California’s 58 counties are striving to continuously serve their constituents more efficiently and cost-effectively. Innovation is alive and well in California Counties.”
For the last two years the County has taken a new, high-tech collaborative approach to holding its annual budget meetings, which are designed to discuss details of the budget with the public. The process has been highly successful as citizen can now interact with the Board of Supervisors at these meeting in person or virtually, in real-time, no matter where they live in our vast 3,500-square-mile county.
“Other governments have a lot more resources than we do, but this is another example of how Humboldt County is doing more with less,” said Rex Bohn, Chair of the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors. “Our county is so rural, and both of these programs get out to citizens, no matter where they are. It’s great to be recognized for the services we provide, but more importantly, we do these things to help people and meet the specific needs of our community.”
The Mobile Outreach program, run by the Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS), is dedicated to providing services to people in outlying communities and to those who are experiencing homelessness. The program travels to community sites such as family resource centers, clinics, tribal offices and volunteer fire departments on a set schedule. The vehicles are often available for special community events, as well.
“We are very excited about this award,” said Barbara LaHaie, Assistant Director of Programs at DHHS. “The CSAC Merit Award is a credit to the dedication and excellent work Mobile Outreach’s staff does every day.” LaHaie added that Mobile Outreach was a crucial element in the department’s ongoing effort toward service decentralization.
On board three 38-foot converted RVs, staff are able to help with Medi-Cal and CalFresh enrollment. Additionally, resources such as mental health, food distribution, the Transportation Assistance Program (TAP) - even help with child car seat adjustments are made available. Employment services and immunization clinics can be scheduled as needed. The vehicles provide office space and Internet connectivity and are equipped with wheelchair lifts. The RVs are supported by four-wheel drive vehicles that can access more remote locations.
Since 2007, Humboldt’s Mobile Outreach program has seen an 89 percent increase in the number of people served.
The annual Challenge Awards program was created by CSAC in the mid-1990s. Each year, entries are evaluated by an independent panel of judges closely affiliated with California counties and the programs and services they deliver. Humboldt County last won a Challenge Award in 1996 for its Community Assistance Unit, which coordinates the pursuit of the most serious code violations affecting health and safety.
For more information, visit CSAC’s website at www.counties.org.
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Photo caption: Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services Mobile Outreach staff (left to right) Kim Durham, Tina Anderson, Maricruz Gomez, Barbara Duncan, Candy Bryant, Tom Nash, CSAC Executive Director Matt Cate, DHHS Assistant Director of Programs Barbara LaHaie, Lori Richeson, Sally Hewitt and Teresa Chase following the organization’s two county awards. Not pictured, Mobile Outreach’s Doug Moyer, Betty Garfield and Stephanie Forman.