The Ohio State University- Masters Social Worker
Licensed Independent Social Worker
The Board of Lucas County Commissioners has a statutory requirement to provide an Emergency Operation Center to coordinate and manage the COVID pandemic. We have provided leadership, materials, and coordination throughout the county since March 12.
Currently, the return to work in a strategic manner is a difficult practice to a community that is used to a pattern of work, school, and recreation. Full reassurance is needed to lead a return to a quality of life. Guidance from the Governor’s office is key and often complicated by a poor federal government who is not on the same page thwarts our transition from stay at home to return to community living. Science shows that wearing masks, staying home, getting medical attention if sick, social distancing, and respect for others is the best approach to getting our lives back to normal. There is nothing more important than getting our community back to normal; which is why I am working on this issue full time.
Lucas County originally projected a 20% reduction of our budget for 2020; we now see a slightly better projection. With the help of a strong rainy day fund and cooperation from all of the other elected officials, we will need to cut $8 million dollars from this year’s budget and $19 million from 2021.
However, we are experienced financially. We were dealt a blow in 2009, for several years of a recession, which was seen as difficult for our times. We experienced a loss of county funds, which led to a significant reduction of available budgetary dollars, and eliminated hundreds of positions in order to keep the county in safe financial footing.
Currently, we have implemented furloughs, reduced spending, and implemented layoffs—along with other reductions—in order to weather the financial storm brought on by the pandemic. We will manage because we know how to make tough decisions while maximizing key programmatic services that are essential to residents in the county.
The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) has worked with both the jail and the courts to provide guidance and PPE minimize the exposure to COVID-19. The Sheriff, along with other law enforcement offices in the county, are in weekly communication with the EOC to get briefed on the current situation and any changes in guidance from the state and local health departments. In an effort to protect as many people as possible, only those who have been alleged to have committed serious crimes were booked into the county jail, the rest were issued summonses to appear in court. This has resulted in a significant drop in our jail population. Also, the Courts have found creative ways, through video technology and other new approaches that limit the need for groups of people to gather in person. Per the current CDC guidance, to limit employees from bringing COVID into the jail, daily temperature checks, and a series of questions are asked of employees before they start their shift.
For too long persons of color have been treated differently in criminal justice experiences compared to others who live in the same community. We know this to be true by looking at the disproportionality in jail.
People across the county, including those in Lucas County, are advocating for change to practices and policies that disproportionately affect people of color. We need to allow the voices and peaceful protests point out these disparities.
The county government is creating a Diversity and Inclusion department to have both internal reviews and assess our own culture and practices.
I have also been working to assist police on a social work program to help with community needs rather than always using law enforcement.
Lastly, other mental health services and programs in our community can help people be treated outside of jail and into treatment facilities. I am hopeful for fewer days or no days in jail for nonviolent offenders while they wait for the criminal process to play out