STATEMENT BY MDHS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR RICHARD A. BERRY
AUGUST 26, 2014

The Mississippi Department of Human Services is committed to carrying out our mission to “Provide services for people in need by optimizing all available resources to sustain the family unit and to encourage traditional family values thereby promoting self-sufficiency and personal responsibility to all Mississippians.

One of the key programs to achieving these lofty goals, and an area where the agency continues to struggle, is the area of Child Support Enforcement. There has been a considerable amount of progress in this area over the past two years due to a departmental reorganization, the addition of a centralized call center and a new approach to collections in the outsourcing of the State Disbursement Unit (SDU). These initiatives, along with the efforts of dedicated state staff, have contributed to increased collections.

Even though these steps have brought about positive results, agency management does not feel that the improvements are increasing at the rate needed to provide exceptional service to our citizens. I, along with the key leadership at MDHS, and with the full support of Governor Phil Bryant, continue to explore ways to vastly improve child support services to the citizens of our state.

Today, we will begin the process of implementing a Pilot Project to outsource the Legal and Case Management components of the Child Support Enforcement program in 17 counties in southwest Mississippi. A complete listing of the affected counties is as follows: Adams, Amite, Claiborne, Copiah, Covington, Franklin, Jefferson, Jefferson Davis, Lamar, Lawrence, Lincoln, Marion, Pike, Simpson, Smith, Walthall and Wilkinson.

A Request for Proposal (RFP) is being developed with a target date for implementation of January 1, 2015. This action will displace approximately 50 full-time employees. The affected employees will be given all of the proper notifications and rights afforded to them under State Personnel Board rules and regulations. Affected employees will be encouraged to apply for other openings within MDHS as well other agencies. Language will be included in the RFP strongly encouraging the successful bidder(s) to employ MDHS employees displaced by implementation of the Pilot Project.

Project implementation will begin immediately by MDHS filing documents with the various agencies and developing the RFP as required by Mississippi Law. The process will be lengthy; however, it is imperative that the affected employees have as the earliest possible knowledge of this situation in order to manage the change that they will undergo.

Thank you for your support and cooperation as we strive to better serve our citizens.

Mississippi Department of Human Services
Executive Director Richard A. Berry

Statement from House Democratic Caucus on
August 26 Release by MDHS Executive Director

Seventeen county offices of Child Support Services located in Southwest Mississippi were notified this week they will be privatized. After this pilot project is completed all offices within the state will be privatized. This ‘pilot project’ is the result of legislation (HB 1009) passed during the 2013 legislative session.

Mississippi House Democratic Leader, Rep. Bobby Moak said “during debate on the House floor we warned jobs would be lost because of this program. Simply put, you will not see your taxes decreased because of these job losses. Anyone who attempts to convince you this is shrinking government is being disingenuous. Citizens will only see the transfer of their state tax dollars that paid the salaries of these fifty soon to be displaced workers to lawyers in Jackson that are the beneficiaries of the privatization.”

“It is purely a transfer of money to those savvy enough to lobby enough votes in the legislature and governors office to make it happen for them. It is the same plan that transfers money from the state treasury to ‘certain individuals’ that we have seen during the entire time this administration has been in control of state government” Moak continued.

Mississippi has been led by this Republican leadership team to the highest unemployment rate in the nation, the slowest economic turnaround in the nation and has taken the illogical step of turning away 3 million dollars per day in healthcare funds to hospitals thereby forcing them to lay off workers, curtail services and in some cases close their doors.

“Southwest Mississippi already has high unemployment. The loss of these fifty local jobs will only increase our unemployment rolls and add more families to our state assistance programs. It’s perplexing our leadership is the first to cut a ribbon announcing 20 new jobs but then goes into hiding when they cut 50 jobs from the workforce without any tax savings,” Moak said.