The North Dakota legislature broke up North Dakota into 19 multi-county “human service zones” as an extension of the previous state legislative Senate Bill 2206 approved by lawmakers in 2017, to provide stronger services to the entire state. Chip Ammerman, Director of Cass County Social Services, says the basis for the legislation is strong.
“There’re some guiding principles one is about efficiency, how to best serve second is going to be identifying location shouldn’t have to do with a quality of service that people are being provided. A child in a small county should be served the same way as a child in a larger county.”
Ammerman says that the services provided before were good, but there was a struggle for resources in the more rural areas. The new zones will help smaller areas get the resources they need and provide more efficient service. Communities over 60,000 will become their own zone, but Ammerman says that will not prevent areas like Cass County from providing help across those zones. Currently, there are many counties across the state looking to combine to create their own zones of service. Ammerman says the outlook is positive for those communities.
“One of the things that I really like about this redesign is that it’s about early intervention and prevention. How do we get help to people at earlier phases of crises, so that we can help them become self-sufficient and have the life that they are defining for themselves? This is going to really help us be able to use those resources to be intervening in families at earlier phases.”
Social services in North Dakota cover a range of things such as family services, in-home care for the disabled, child abuse investigations, and much more. Under the bill, around 140 county social services employees will become state employees.