LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Department of Human Services is closing four offices by late 2020 as part of a restructuring effort that includes expanding or enhancing other offices in more populated counties.
The department issued a news release Monday announcing its plans to shut down offices in DeWitt, Clarendon, Booneville and Osceola, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
It plans to launch an application processing center in Osceola by June 2021. The center will employ about 50 people using positions that will be shifted from other areas of the state.
The planned changes come after the department studied how its 85 county offices could be better located around the recipients of programs such as Medicaid, food stamps and subsidized childcare, the release noted. The county offices authorize and process applications for the programs.
“DHS remains committed to having at least one county office in every county, but it has been years since we looked at our footprint in the state to determine whether we have the right amount of staff in the right places to best serve our clients,” Human Services Secretary Cindy Gillespie said in the release. “We’ve taken a deep dive into the data and found locations where we should move staff and areas where we should make some re-investments.”
The shutting of the four offices, including annexes housing Adult Protective Services employees in Sebastian and Baxter counties, are projected to save $246,500 in rent and utilities, the department said.
Some of that money will then go toward opening the center in Osceola, which will process applications submitted through a department website.
The department added that other money will be used toward expanding, improving or moving offices in Washington, Jefferson, Pulaski, Lonoke and Faulkner counties.
The enhancements to those offices, which will be made between March 2021 and June 2023, are necessary “due to the conditions of existing buildings or the high client counts in the current locations,” the department said.