Calais DHHS Office Closure In 90 Days

By Amy Jeanroy

 

On July 29th, the Calais Department of Health and Human Services office on South Street was notified that it was scheduled to be closed on October 31, 2016. The 13 employees were to relocate to the Machias office. 

The Calais Advertiser contacted Samantha Edwards, Manager of Media Relations at DHHS, who explained the reasoning behind the closure. 

“The Calais building lease ends on October 31, 2016 and the current building space costs approximately $100,000 per year. The Department regularly reviews leases as they come up for renewal.”

When asked about local clients having access to DHHS and continuing to receive services, including the mandatory face-to-face meetings, Edwards assured us that they will have staff from the Office of Aging and Disability along with CDC public health nurses maintaining an itinerant site. Also, eligibility staff from the Office for Family Independence will make regularly scheduled, weekly trips to conduct face-to-face meetings in the Calais Area, but did not say where in the Calais area she was referring to. 

Edwards says that this will be "similar to the pilot program adopted in Dover-Foxcroft." Referring to the June 2016 pilot outreach program that was launched by DHHS in January 2016, to replace the kiosk program that had started 14 years prior in the area. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the closing of the Dover-Foxcroft office had  “caused some level of challenge to the folks” in that rural region of the state. 

There are concerns about access to services for those who don't have transportation, including the elderly, as well as the employees in the office itself.

“Employees from the Calais DHHS office will be driving to Machias, an extra 45 minutes to an hour each way, says one source. Add to that a mandatory lunch hour, and we will now be looking at an 11 hour work day.”

 

The news was unexpected for city officials as well. City Manager Jim Porter said “We are deeply disappointed in the decision (to close the DHHS office). We wish we would have had more notice, and will be asking them to reconsider their decision.”