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Kentucky lawmakers get an update on social worker needs

Stu Johnson

The head of the state agency overseeing the Commonwealth’s social worker program says legislative and executive branch budgets both address workforce needs. Lesa Dennis is the commissioner of the Department for Community-Based Services. She testified before a Senate committee Tuesday. She said the current caseload average for social workers is between 31 to 35 which includes past-due cases. Dennis said efforts are focused on getting caught up.

“So, if we remove the past dues, our caseloads are averaging around the 20-21 range. So again that additional hundred social workers would go a long way in helping us reduce our caseloads and reduce our backlogs of past due referrals,” said Dennis.

Dennis noted over the last year 172 social workers were hired and the turnover rate fell from a high of 40% to 17%. Still, Dennis added there are sections of Kentucky where the need is more prevalent.

“But we do have some pockets that are more challenging than others and of course that is in more urban areas where we have a greater need for social workers. So, that includes Jefferson, Fayette, northern Kentucky, Hardin County are our primary areas where we have the greatest need right now,” said Dennis.

Dennis said funding is proposed to hire 50 additional social workers in each of the next two years.

Final decisions will come later this session with the passage of the state budget.

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Stu has been reporting for WEKU for more than 35 years. His primary beat is Lexington/Fayette government.
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