KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) –Legislators discussed topics of interest and concern with local East Tennessee community leaders at a legislative breakfast Friday.
One topic of big concern among leaders is the set of issues plaguing the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services DCS. Governor Bill Lee’s budget proposal includes a $190 million increase for DCS.
“It seems like we’re trying to recruit and retain new employees in the region, but they’re not getting the support they need out of Nashville,” said Representative David Hawk (R – Greeneville).
Hawk believes money alone won’t fix DCS’s issues of overwork and low staffing.
“I want the commissioner of the Department of Children’s Services to realize that throwing money at this – although in the beginning, I thought was a good thing – is not going to do us any good unless we invest in those workers and make sure they have all the tools they need to be successful to ultimately help kids,” said Hawk.
The proposed additional funding for DCS would add 166 beds and increase salaries for caseworkers. State Representative Scotty Campbell (R – Mountain City) believes it’s a people issue.
“First of all, you have parents not taking care of things at home,” said Campbell. “You have staff that are overwhelmed, overworked, arguably underpaid, so that’s all connected. So, I think we’re seeing the culmination of years of situations inside the department and in people’s personal lives that have led us to this moment in time.”
Hawk said he plans to bring up his concerns to the commissioner of DCS when they present their budget to the finance committee he serves on. The committee meets on March 1.