Lawmakers boost DCS budget
A panel of state lawmakers voted to add $7.9 million in state funding to the Department of Children's Services budget in an effort to fill the agency's heavy vacancies.
- The money would go toward raises for DCS case managers. Lawmakers hope that would make the positions more appealing for applicants.
Why it matters: DCS reports 22% of its case manager positions are vacant, which amounts to 596 empty positions across the state.
- DCS commissioner Jennifer Nichols told the Senate Health and Welfare Committee those vacancies are increasing caseloads.
State of play: The committee quickly voted Wednesday to approve the added funds, with bipartisan support. The change still requires approval from the full General Assembly and Gov. Bill Lee.
- State Sen. Ferrell Haile, who proposed the budget amendment, said failing to address the issue could create dire problems for the agency, which has faced criticism over its treatment of vulnerable children.
- "There's all these vacancies that they can't fill," Haile (R-Gallatin) said to the committee. "Without those, there could be some really bad headlines."
What they're saying: Nichols said recruiting more staff would automatically bring caseloads down.
- "If we can make this job attractive enough … I believe we'll be able to recruit and I believe we'll be able to retain," Nichols said.
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