Every now and then, someone suggests extending our office hours to help the indigent population during nighttime and weekend emergencies. If implemented, this plan would result in higher administrative costs (salaries, security, etc.), which is something that I would like to avoid, if at all possible. However, the mission to help people whose emergencies don’t strike during normal business hours is a heartfelt and important one to pursue. With a lot of hard work and community collaboration, I developed a couple of ways to extend township assistance – without extending office hours or increasing administrative costs.
Some emergency situations, such as evictions and utility shut-offs, can only be resolved during normal office hours, because that’s when landlords and utility companies are open for business. Other emergencies, such as homelessness and lack of medicine, cannot wait. Several months ago, a plan was developed to address the needs of the homeless citizens 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, including holidays. Now, because of the great collaborative spirit among social service agencies, including Wayne Township, someone who is homeless can get help whenever that emergency occurs. First Call for Help (a United Way Program) runs the hotline and pre-screens callers so they can be referred to an appropriate shelter. I agreed to extend Township assistance to eligible citizens when the shelters were full – regardless of the time of day. This contingency plan has worked very well, and First Call for Help has done an excellent job in referring people to shelters.
Just recently, I’ve partnered with St. Joseph Hospital to help the indigent people pay for their prescription medication after hours. By law, indigent patients who are released from hospitals can go to their Township and apply for assistance for their prescription drugs. However, what about the patients who are released after hours or on weekends? Normally they would have to wait until the office opens to get help. This is unacceptable to me. The purpose of Township government is to provide temporary, emergency relief. Allowing indigent citizens to go without much-needed medication goes against that goal. I found a way, however, to satisfy our mission, while not extending actual office hours. Social workers at St. Joseph hospital are willing to screen indigent patients for township eligibility, help them begin the application process, and even schedule appointments with us. Social workers will then refer eligible patients to a local pharmacy, who will give them a 3-day supply of medicine – and Wayne Township pays for it. The patient will come to our office the next business day, at which time my investigators will complete the application process and either grant additional assistance, or refer them to other community organizations that might help them.
These two examples illustrate my mission of working smarter, instead of working longer. The social service agencies, including the hospitals, are filled with competent professionals who share the same mission. Government typically does not have an image of being creative and efficient, but I’m proud to say that Wayne Township is exactly that! My staff and I do a fantastic job developing ideas that get right to the heart of the matters. I look forward to a continued successful record of developing more innovative ways to serve the public, while meeting the challenge to keep the spending of taxpayers money as low as possible.
Matthew P. Schomburg
Wayne Township Trustee